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Reading Jesus: A Writer's Encounter with the Gospels Hardcover – Deckle Edge


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This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (October 27, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375424571
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375424571
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #894,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Novelist and memoirist Gordon (Circling My Mother) examines her faith by closely reading, in a kind of literary lectio divina (sacred reading), the four Christian gospels that recount the life of Christ. The accounts by evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the life of Jesus have a common subject and amazingly different treatments. Gordon tackles the power and puzzle of the Christian gospels with measure and imagination, providing welcome relief for those left cold by scholarly or fundamentalist parsing. Raised Catholic, she writes as a layperson and cradle believer thrilled and troubled by these history-shaping texts, unafraid to articulate questions: what does it mean to be perfect? what exactly is a miracle? Her savoring of particular lines is poetic and amplifies the beauty and sometimes ambiguous challenge of the language, stories and injunctions of the gospels. Gordon writes to find out what she thinks and lets readers listen in. Those whose faith is infused with humanism and love of the power of words will love Gordon's words about matters and mysteries of faith. (Oct. 27)
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Review

Advance Praise for Reading Jesus"A fresh and humane take on the Gospels. Gordon's approach is aware of, but not burdened by, doctrine. Her many insightful questions give expression to thoughts which have, for many readers and for many years, been waiting to be asked aloud."
—Mark Jarman, author of Epistles

"Gordon tackles the power and puzzle of the Christian gospels with measure and imagination, providing welcome relief for those left cold by scholarly or fundamentalist parsing . . . Her savoring of particular lines is poetic and amplifies the beauty and sometimes ambiguous challenge of the language, stories, and injunctions of the gospels."
Publishers Weekly

Praise for Circling My Mother"What's inspiring about Circling My Mother is Gordon's deeply personal portrayal of her mother . . . a woman in full belief of the love of God . . . Accompanying the author while she comes to terms with her is thrilling."
The New York Times Book Review

"Everywhere she looks, Gordon finds the same mix of life and strife, beauty and decay. There's no escaping the fact that one way or another, we lost what we hold dear. But remembrance is preservation. Art, we believe, immortalizes. Gordon's encircled portrait of her mother is a daring and perceptive work or memory, catharsis, and literary grace."
Los Angeles Times

"Both wrenching and enlivening, resonant with candid emotion."
The Boston Globe



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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Mary Gordon's wrestling with scripture from the gospels requires the reader to read incisively.
R. Reilly
This book is the fruit of that reading; each chapter is a reflection on passages that either move or trouble her the most.
Imogen13
Reading more with questions in mind than answers to defend, her approach is reminiscent of Annie Dillard's.
William B. Jones

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By DJ Rix on December 25, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I entered in, I know not where,
And I remained, though knowing naught,
Transcending knowledge with my thought.

St. John of the Cross

Mary Gordon is a rare enough bird: a well-known writer, critic, intellectual, lecturer, college professor, Manhattanite, feminist, who also happens to be a lifelong observant Roman Catholic. (I admit I'm not one of her ideal readers) A few years ago, she heard a protestant preacher ranting on a taxicab radio & decided to read & study all four Gospels, in canonical order, in various translations, & see what kind of reaction she had. The result is a book resisting categorization - memoir, spiritual meditation, literary criticism. It most feels like a collection of exploratory homilies for herself, & the kind of prose book poets dream of writing.

Catholics of Gordon's generation were not much encouraged to read the Bible. Even Methodist Sunday School kids like myself read it haphazardly. Like Gordon, I also was filled with composite New Testament stories loaded with details not found in the Bible, & our teachers avoided particularly strange, contradictory, troublesome passages & encounters whenever they could. It's interesting to see her try to sort out those stories , confront miracles, & deal with the paradoxes. She attempts to maintain some intellectual distance, but memories & associations cut through.

The book is in three parts, each chapter in a part beginning with the same passage as recounted in different Gospels & versions. The table contents itself is a poem.

One strength of Catholicism I've always admired is its acceptance of mystery, of the unexplainable.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Imogen13 on September 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mary Gordon's faith is not the kind that is an armor of certainty, security, and clarity, but the kind that embraces doubt, the kind that allows itself to be troubled, to ask questions, to argue.

A lapsed (it seems) Catholic, Gordon, novelist and lover of words, decided one day to read and reread the four Gospels, in different translations. This book is the fruit of that reading; each chapter is a reflection on passages that either move or trouble her the most.

In the first part, Gordon reflects on the passages from the Gospel that are closest to her heart. Here, Gordon is at her best, incisive, keen, thoroughly spiritual. She reveals the human Christ she knows and has rediscovered in this exercise. I was edified and at times moved almost to tears with her reflections.

The second part is more intellectual. Gordon confronts those passages she finds most jarring and upsetting: the ones which paint a Jesus (not to mention, a Church) who seems less easy to follow, and maybe even less easy to love.

Gordon closes the book with a reflection on what for Catholics, is the most profound mystery of all: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ.

This book is an act of honesty and generosity. I imagine the book will be fruitful for all Christians who understand what it means to struggle with their faith.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William B. Jones on January 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Mary Gordon is very much concerned with the Jesus presented in the Gospel texts, and what it means to encounter that presentation as an adult reader after having received the typical mash-up one encounters in church and culture. Reading more with questions in mind than answers to defend, her approach is reminiscent of Annie Dillard's. As with Dillard's insights gained on her own "close reading" of nature, neither does Gordon demure from clinging to insights gained on her "close reading" of Jesus. Take and read.

It was fascinating to read Gordon's Jesus in tandem with two other authors whose new works also take Jesus seriously. The Christ of Christian faith is informed by the Jesus rendered in the biblical text, and Robin Meyers' "Saving Jesus from the Church" is as committed to an adult reading of the former as Gordon is to the latter. Gordon may not necessarily concur with Meyer's social application of the gospel, but for this United Church of Christ pastor, at least, Jesus is meant to be experienced as a humane and humanizing presence in the world, despite the manifest failures of the past and present church.

As to Thomas Moore's "Writing in the Sand," his subtitle, "Jesus and the Soul of the Gospels," links this work to his earlier "Care of the Soul," "Soul Mates," and "Dark Nights of the Soul." Moore pays not only close attention to what the text tells us of Jesus (Gordon) and how some may live more faithfully (Meyers), but also how gospel stories connect to God and one another on both a spiritual and psychological level. If Gordon takes us to the heart of the gospel and Meyers along the horizontal axis of the cross into the world, Moore leads us to view the height and depth of the soul seeking communion with God. Take and read -- one or all three.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Karl W. Nehring on January 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book started out well but seemed to run out of energy as it went along. I give Mary Gordon credit for tackling an interesting subject, but wish that she had spent more time and effort on it. It is as though she had some good ideas, started writing, used up her good ideas early on, then just wanted to get the book over with. This is a shame, because her first few chapters are genuinely stimulating.

Part of the problem may be her own apparent puzzlement about religion. When she focuses on the actual text of the Gospels, as in the early chapters, she raises some intriguing issues, as in her discussion of Jesus withering the fig tree. But as the book progresses, Gordon seems to lose focus, and becomes more and more tentative in her writing. It is almost as if she is afraid of appearing to her readers as having settled any crucial faith-related religious questions in her own mind. As a result, her writing just seems to wander and drift. The end result is a good book that could have been much better. My rating is 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.
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