Paul Thomas Anderson's 'The Master'

Featuring an all-star cast of Academy Award-winning and -nominated actors Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Laura Dern, The Master is another fascinating film from Paul Thomas Anderson. Anderson’s previous films Boogie Nights, Magnolia and There Will be Blood have all been well received.

The Master is a striking portrait of drifters and seekers in post-World War II America. It unfolds with the journey of a naval veteran who arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future, until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader. Believed by many to be based on the life of L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, Anderson has said parts of the story were lifted from early drafts of the script for There Will Be Blood, as well as Navy stories that Jason Robards told him.

If you're drawn to The Master, you may want to check out the bestselling book by Lawrence Wright: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. The book features many interviews, including the infamous one with Paul Haggis featured in the February, 2011, New Yorker article THE APOSTATE Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology.

Father Andrew Greeley, bestselling novelist and Catholic scholar, has died

Father Andrew Greeley, devoted and devout Chicago Catholic priest, author of forward-thinking (read: controversial) scholarly articles on the future and relevancy of the Catholic Church, and bestselling author of mysteries and stand-alone romances that were so steamy, they earned him the label,of a clerical Harold Robbins, has died.

Father Greeley was ahead of his time on a number of social issues that still make headlines today. He believed in the ordination of women. For decades he urged the Catholic Church to relax its stand on birth control and divorce. He never stopped pushing the Church to stop defending and hiding priests guilty of child sex abuse. He did, however, never waver in his support of the Church's opposition to abortion.

It was his bestselling novels and the popular Father Blackie Ryan mystery series (i.e., The Bishop in the West Wing (2002) and The Bishop in the Old Neighborhood (2005) that really put him at odds with the Catholic Church, so much so that Cardinal Bernardin (Chicago) rejected Father Greeley's million dollar pledge from his book royalties.

In 2008, Father Greeley published the last Blackie Ryan mystery -- The Archbishop in Andalusia. That same year his clothing got caught in a taxi's closed door. The resulting head injury ending his writing and speaking career.

Father Greeley, who was 85, died in Chicago at home.

Dan Brown's latest novel, Inferno

Last week, Dan Brown's new novel, Inferno was released and is in hot demand. In this 476 page blockbuster, Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor whose specialty in symbology takes him to Italy to unravel the secrets of Dante's Inferno, races against time to save the world.

Dan Brown came to the public's attention in 2003 when his intriguing, provocative, controversial The Da Vinci Code broke all sorts of publishing records and is, to this day, one of the bestselling novels of all time. Ever since, he has had one #1 bestseller after another. Just two years after The Da Vinci Code was released, Brown was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most influential People in the World.

Are you on the wait list for Inferno? Never fear, we have a list of great titles that share Brown's powerful formula of mixing history, religion, and/or literature and cryptography to tell a compelling story. Try some of these to tide you over until your number comes up.

Umberto Eco's very first novel, published in English 30 years ago, is considered a classic. In The Name of the Rose, Brother William of Baskerville, a 14th century monk, is sent to Italy to investigate seven deeply disturbing murders. Three years later, Sean Connery starred in the award-winning film version.

In The Eight (1988), Katherine Neville, tells the story of Catherine Velis, a computer pro for one of the Big Eight accounting firms. Velis is fascinated by the relationship between chess and mathematics and sets out on a dangerous quest to gather the pieces of an antique chess set, scattered across the globe. If found, the complete set will reveal a world-changing secret, which began in 1790.

Jonathan Rabb, in his popular 2001 The Book of Q, moves back and forth between sixth century Asia Minor and 20th century Croatia. Father Ian Pearse is a researcher at the Vatican Library who cannot forget his passionate affair eight years earlier with Petra. When he comes across the translation of an ancient scroll that reveals a shocking code, he returns to Bosnia (and, oh yes, Petra) to save the world from the secrets buried in the scroll.

Scrolls and diaries that beg to be decoded to reveal earth-shattering religious secrets, are at the center of The 13th Apostle (2007), by Richard and Rachael Heller. This time, the sleuths are Sabbie Karaim, a biblical scholar and ex-Israeli commando and Gil Pearson, an American cybersleuth who discover there are those who are willing to kill for this possible link to one of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

If you are too impatient for your hold for the print version of Inferno, why not try Paul Michael's dramatic narrative performance in the audiobook version?

Tonight: Race And Religion: Progress And Pitfalls On The Journey To Equality

Tuesday April 9, 2013: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Join us as leaders from different religious, racial, and ethnic groups reflect on the high and low points of how their traditions have dealt with issues of race, racial justice, and racial healing.

This event is inspired by this year's Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads.

This event is co-sponsored by the Interfaith Council For Peace And Justice.

Film And Discussion: The Award-Winning Documentary "Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football"

Friday March 15, 2013: 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

The Downtown AADL screens the award-winning 2011 documentary Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football which follows a predominately Arab-American high school football team from Dearborn as they practice for the big game during the last ten days of Ramadan. Imagine having to fast while preparing for an athletic competition!

Dr. Matthew Stiffler, Professor at UM, and researcher at the Arab American National Museum, will lead the post-film discussion.

Professor David L. Holmes Discusses His Book "The Faiths Of The Postwar Presidents: From Truman To Obama"

Monday September 17, 2012: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

David L. Holmes established himself as a measured voice in the debate over the nation's religious underpinnings with his acclaimed 2006 book The Faiths of the Founding Fathers. With the same judicious approach, he now examines the role of faith in the lives of the twelve presidents who have served since the end of World War II, in The Faiths Of The Postwar Presidents: From Truman to Obama.

Join us as Professor Holmes discusses his new book and provides enlightening anecdotes of our recent presidents. This event includes a book signing and books will be on sale.

"Lamb," an Unusual Gospel

I am currently on my second copy of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. My first copy of Christopher Moore's novel was read, re-read, and loaned out so often by myself and others that it eventually fell apart.

Jesus' pal Biff is brought back from the dead to fill in the missing thirty-year "gap" in the Gospels by writing his account of growing up with the Messiah. Moore writes with a sense of humor and sarcasm that some may find crude or offensive, but others may find themselves laughing out loud every few pages. This "gospel" is nothing like what you would expect; it's full of all the taboo topics: religion, politics, sex, drugs, and rock (just rock, you know...stonemason stuff?). Since Moore pokes fun not only at Christianity, but also at Buddhism, Hinduism, and just about every other major religion, this is a book for those who don't take religion or life too seriously. I find myself picking up Lamb any time I need a good dose of wit and sarcasm or a good reminder to step back and laugh.

Untouchable

Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand is the story of a young man named Bakha, an “Untouchable”. As an Untouchable, Bakha is of the lowest caste in Indian society and works as a sweeper and latrine cleaner. But Bakha longs for a life free from the daily abuses inflicted by the higher classes. He must walk down the street announcing his presence because he cannot touch – by accident or no – a member of the higher classes, for they shall be “polluted.” He may not enter a temple or a school, for the building shall then be polluted as well. Bakha endures insults such as “pig” and “filth” day to day, and he and his family live in utter poverty. There seems to be no end in sight, but there is a glimmer of hope in one man might inspire change in India. A beautiful book.

Untouchable, a work of historical fiction, was first published in 1935, during the British Raj (reign) before the Indian Independence Act of 1947. Today, many Untouchables are now self-described as “Dalits”, and integrate less noticeably into urban areas, having more employment and education opportunities. Although the Indian Constitution outlaws caste discrimination, in rural areas, some discrimination still survives. The following are some non-fiction titles relating to India and the caste system in history:

Untouchables: One Family's Triumphant Journey Out Of The Caste System In Modern India

Caste: At Home In Hindu India

The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives In The Victorian Raj

The Hindus : : An Alternative History

Author Birthdays: Bunin, Narayan, Barthelme

October 10th marks the birthday of authors Ivan Alekseevich Bunin, R. K. Narayan, and Frederick Barthelme, among others.

Ivan Alekseevich Bunin was a Russian author, and the first Russian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He wrote novels, poetry, and short stories, as well as a commentary on Leo Tolstoy, which is somewhat autobiographical. We have a few books of his collected short stories in our collection. One of the more well-known stories is Sukhodol, which was supposedly a biography of his family.

Bunin's real star work is the first full-length novel, which made him famous in Russia. Entitled The Village, it is a realistic portrayal of village life in Russia during the Revolution.

R. K. Narayan was an Indian writer, nominated multiple times for the Nobel Prize, though he never won. Of his works, The Guide is perhaps the most praised. It is a novel that shows the change of an Indian man into a sort of spiritual mentor. Spirituality seems to be a common theme for Narayan, as he also wrote a few Hindu religious retellings, like Gods, Demons, and Others and a modern prose version of The Mahabharata.

Narayan's novels are often based in the fictional town called Malgudi, including his first, Swami and Friends, which got him noticed by fellow author Graham Greene.

Frederick Barthelme is an American author and editor of The Mississippi Review literary magazine. He is the brother of fellow author Donald Barthelme.

Barthelme's latest book is called Waveland. Set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Booklist called it a "...powerfully atmospheric story of loneliness and risk". You can read an interview from last year about it at Fictionaut Blog.

Good Listening: Speaking of Faith

One of my favorite podcasts is Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett from American Public Media. Next month the show's name becomes "Krista Tippett on Being" -- and it sounds like Krista has more good shows planned. This summer, my favorite was her interview with Shane Claiborne, a 30-something social activist you can read about in Esquire magazine accessible in General Reference Center Gold.

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