New York Review of Books, Paperback, 9780940322233, 336pp.
Publication Date: May 31, 2000
The hero of J.F. Powers's comic masterpiece is Father Urban, a man of the cloth who is also a man of the world. Charming, with an expansive vision of the spiritual life and a high tolerance for moral ambiguity, Urban enjoys a national reputation as a speaker on the religious circuit and has big plans for the future. But then the provincial head of his dowdy religious order banishes him to a retreat house in the Minnesota hinterlands. Father Urban soon bounces back, carrying God's word with undaunted enthusiasm through the golf courses, fishing lodges, and backyard barbecues of his new turf. Yet even as he triumphs his tribulations mount, and in the end his greatest success proves a setback from which he cannot recover.
First published in 1962, " Morte D'Urban" has been praised by writers as various as Gore Vidal, William Gass, Mary Gordon, and Philip Roth. This beautifully observed, often hilarious tale of a most unlikely Knight of Faith is among the finest achievements of an author whose singular vision assures him a permanent place in American literature.
Elizabeth Hardwick is the author of many books and essays, including "Herman Melville" (Penguin Lives), "Sleepless Nights," and "American Fictions," available as a Modern Library paperback. She lives in New York City.
"Superbly comic" — Nancy Pearl, Book Lust
"Each sentence tends to be an event; yet every event, like every firm but fluent sentence, is an open door into the next half—expected, half—shocking encounter….Morte D’Urbanis [J.F. Powers’s] supreme fiction." — F.W. Dupee
"…[Powers’s] priests were creatures of a vivid, sympathetic, and unerring imagination…." — Andrew Greeley, Commonweal