“Be glad of life,” my student’s Facebook status said, “because it gives you the chance to love, to work, to play, and to look up at the stars.”
The quote comes from American clergyman and author Henry Van Dyke, but the sentiment could’ve come from me.
I love looking into the night sky and being filled with wonder at the vastness of it all. Fewer things strike me as more beautiful, fewer things feel so profound, as when I look up and see infinity. On some nights, I can see a million stars. There are so many, maybe it’s a million million.
That’s an exaggeration. I know that astronomers have actually figured out how many stars are visible from earth with the naked eye on a clear night. I don’t remember the figure.
But for me, looking up at the heavens, science doesn’t matter one single bit. The sky is filled with a million million stars. It’s what infinity looks like. Continue reading
Can a gay man, raised an Anglican but descended from a Shepardim immigrant father, write a great novel about the Christian faith and the power of redemption? If the author is Michael Arditti and the novel is Easter, the answer is a resounding yes. Easter was, in fact, published about ten years ago, but I just got around to it this, um, Easter, and now I’m wondering what took me so long. This is a magnificent work—a social satire on the scale of Waugh, occasionally sexually graphic, frequently Dickensian in its panorama of modern London, and often wildly funny. And it also has the virtue, increasingly rare these days, of being extraordinarily well written. It’s a chronicle of a modern London church seen through the lives and thoughts of a group of people associated with the Parish of St Mary-in-the-Vale in Hampstead, at Easter (and in the interests of full disclosure, I live in Hampstead, and the church does not exist, although the Vale of Health, where the church is supposedly located, actually does). Particularly the vicar, who seems to be having a crisis of faith, and his younger curate, who learns that he is HIV positive. And what a chronicle it is. This is the best novel about faith, and its testing, that I’ve read in years, even decades. And what does the testing is AIDS, of course. For Arditti, the question isn’t so much “What sort of God would allow AIDS?” as “What sort of faith can survive AIDS?” Continue reading