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Throughout the twentieth century, lively American fiction writers with a social conscience - among them Jean Toomer, William Carlos Williams, Tillie Olsen, and Grace Paley - experimented playfully with new ways to explore the lives of those on the margins of society, and invented clever forms for stories about workers, political protesters, and the poor. The strains of the surrounding poverty, alcoholism, and drug abuse tell on the young volunteers, and the war forces many of the men to decide whether to publicly bum their draft cards and offer themselves up for hard terms in federal prison.
Valerie Sayers LISTEN... Displaced Souls PRAY... City of Belief Nicole d’Entremont ters are mostly Catholic Workers and the poor they live among in lower Manhat- tan; d’Entremont herself was one of them, TAKE ACTION! Fox Print Books, $16, 242 pp. and was friends with Roger La Porte (Jon- athan Le Blanc in the novel), the young T hroughout the twentieth century, man who set himself ablaze in front of lively American fiction writers the United Nations. Some of the other with a social conscience—among fictional Workers are composites based I them Jean Toomer, William Carlos Wil- on real people, d’Entremont tells us, and n the United States and liams, Tillie Olsen, and Grace Paley—ex- many names have been changed—but around the world, hunger perimented playfully with new ways to historical war-resisters like A. J. Muste is on the rise. You can help explore the lives of those on the margins make appearances, and Dorothy Day her- create hope and opportunity of society, and invented clever forms for self is the focus of several brief interludes. for those in need by using stories about workers, political protesters, Day’s flashes of tart, no-nonsense dia- and the poor. That experimental impulse logue have the ring of a novelist’s authen- Lenten Prayers for Hungry continues today, especially in the fiction tic memory: she tells a young volunteer People. This free resource of such writers as Sherman Alexie, Ed- who no longer attends Mass that she’ll from Bread for the World is widge Danticat, and Junot Díaz, even as “never be able to continue this work” a 6 x 9 inch “table tent” with it is informed by a more straightforward without Communion. a scripture reading, prayer, realist tradition. “Sanctimonious old biddy,” thinks the and action for each of the Nicole d’Entremont’s first novel, an volunteer, Del—perhaps the closest this five weeks of Lent as well as affecting account of the 1965 self-im- novel has to a protagonist. Doubting, for Holy Week. molation by a Catholic Worker protest- even cynical, Del has left college and the ing all war, is both realist and modestly church but is nonetheless still drawn to Lent begins on February 17 experimental: according to the author’s the work of the soup kitchen named “St. with Ash Wednesday. Order note, many of the chapters were original- Jude’s” in these pages. As the summer your free table tent today. ly composed as “sudden fiction,” or short, of 1965 turns to fall, as Vietnam War intense narratives, told from multiple per- deaths escalate and Americans divide spectives. The form works well, for the themselves into pro- and antiwar camps, To order most part, in a book that probes a shock- Del performs the corporal works of mercy, Lenten Prayers for ing act from many angles. The charac- peeling potatoes and sorting clothes. Hungry People visit: www.bread.org/lent or call toll-free 1-800-822-7323 Commonweal . December 18, 2009 50 F STREET NW, SUITE 500 WASHINGTON, DC 20001 XA10-
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