John Murphy

John is the in-house illustrator and cover designer for Idylls Press in Ashland, Oregon. He grew up in Wisconsin, however, where the harsh winters allowed for plenty of indoor leisure time to read and draw. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of Oregon’s Clark Honors College in 2006 with a B.A. in Art History and received the 2005-2006 U of O Undergraduate Library Research Award for his paper, Pozzo’s Perspective: Visual Hagiography in the Church of St. Ignatius, Rome. In 2007 John taught Art History courses at Western Oregon University, and is now in the Ph.D. program in Art History at Northwestern University. View samples of John’s book covers and illustrations: The Picture of Dorian Gray Wolfproof Travelers Market The Man Who Was Thursday Many of John’s famous author art prints are available on clothing and gifts at Idylls Press’ Cafepress store. You can also see more of John’s art at JohnMurphyArt.com. Besides his reviews for Catholicfiction.net and GodSpy, John is also a frequent contributor of Shakespeare-on-film reviews for bardolatry, and film reviews for Catholic Movies Online. His favorite Catholic novel is Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory.

Book Reviews by John Murphy

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The Power and the Glory

The last priest in Mexico is on the run. The Church has gone underground, outlawed by the incumbent Powers-that-Be. Owning a rosary or a prayer book will land you in jail. Faithful Catholics thirst for the Mass, for the Eucharist, for God, but must content themselves with sporadic celebrations. There is only one priest left, the Whiskey Priest.

"He was a bad priest, he knew it: they had a word for his kind—a whiskey priest—but every failure dropped out of sight and out of mind: somewhere they accumulated in secret—the rubble of his failures. One day they would choke up, he suppo...

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Graham Greene: A Life in Letters

Michael Dirda, Washington Post's perspicacious literary critic, sets his sights on a new collection of correspondence by Graham Greene, the great Catholic novelist. He writes:

His men and women are murderers, traitors, unhappy adulterous lovers, sinners of every stripe--and he doesn't glamorize their seediness, their misery, or their desperation. Evelyn Waugh bluntly called them "charmless." Nearly all of them dwell in a shadowy fictive world of hunter and hunted, where love itself leads mainly to anguish and loss. Nonetheless, even Greene's "entertainments," such as&nb...

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Exiles (2008)

In September of last year I wrote a piece for Godspy on Ron Hansen's Exiles a haunting and beautifully written meditation on priest-poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the composition of one of his masterworks, "The Wreck of the Deutschland," about a shipwreck that took the lives of five Franciscan  nuns in 1875. Hansen's earlier novel, Mariette in Ecstasy, is widely and wisely considered one of the very best novels by a contemporary Catholic writer. It was so good that the novel managed to evoke the deepest mysteries of the Catholic faith while being heralded for its technical and ar...

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Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment

Jesus: A Story of Enlightenment is a sincere but shallow attempt to trace Christ's growing divinity during his young adulthood, before entering public ministry. Deepak Chopra outlines his good intentions in an Author's Note where he describes his novel as "pure fiction," but goes on to say that "I've gotten a glimpse into his (Jesus') mind." Chopra wants to restore to readers the "enlightened Jesus," whose absence ...

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The Lady Paramount

Henry Harland is a little-known American-born Catholic writer who lived in turn-of-the-century England. Though relatively obscure today, he was hugely popular in his own time---among the literati for his work in editing the highly influential Yellow Book quarterly, whose art editor was Aubrey Beardsley, and among the hoi polloi for light romantic comedies with a Catholic atmosphere. Readers looking for witty, elegant stories with Catholic characters in lush settings (the English and Italian countryside, usually) should look no further. Harland is your man.

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Deaf Sentence

There is something appropriate about David Lodge writing on the ruefully comic trials and tribulations of deafness. He is a master chronicler of the seriocomic frustrations of daily life, whether it be the sexual frustrations of young Catholics post Vatican II in How Far Can You Go, or the family frustrations of a beleagured grad student juggling the demands of home life and academia in The British Museum is Falling Down.

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Our Story Begins

Our Story Begins collects new and older short-stories by Tobias Wolff, one of America’s acknowledged masters of the genre. Wolff-hounds will recognize canonical works like “Hunters in the Snow,” “Bullet in the Brain,” and “In the Garden of the North American Martyrs,” short-form masterpieces that have long-since established Wolff’s reputation as a top-tier wordsmith, a composer of tightly-controlled, morally serious, quirkily comedic stories.


Our Story Begins offers over thirty pieces, including eleven new ones. The bleak humor of some of Wolff’s ear...

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Home Truths

Home Truths is a bite-sized country manor comedy of manners adapted from the novelist’s stage play. Its theatrical origins are apparent in the three-act structure, the closed-in location (a country cottage), and the dialogue-heavy scenes. Considering how closely it resembles the script for a stage production, one wonders why Lodge felt compelled to turn it into a novella. In any case, it’s an amusing little farce—a truffle, a trifle, from an author who has written profounder works.

The curtain opens on the country cottage of Adrian and Eleanor, an ex-n...

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The Colour of Blood

 The Colour of Blood is a tight, page-turning Catholic thriller in the Graham Greene tradition. The opening sequence hits the ground running: Cardinal Bem, head of the Church in an unnamed Soviet bloc country, is being chauffered back to his residence when




“He saw, peripherally, a black car racing very close to his. He turned to look. The driver, a woman, wore a green silk scarf tied around her head. Beside her in the passenger seat, a bearded man, holding a revolver in both hands, raised it, aiming at him.”


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Vipers' Tangle

François Mauriac, winner of the Nobel Prize and recipient of France’s Legion d’honneur, was among the last century’s most pre-eminent men of letters, and a devout Roman Catholic.Vipers’ Tangle is one of Mauriac’s most famous works, a book of bruising beauty that explores man’s capacity for love and hate, bitterness and forgiveness, sin and redemption, and his crippling dependency on God’s amazing grace to save a wretch like Monsieur Louis.

Vipers’ Tangle is structured as a lengthy confession—sometimes a confession, sometime...

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The British Museum is Falling Down

“It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.”-- G.K. Chesterton

 

Christianity passes the test, as the wry novels of David Lodge attest. (The riots and righteous fury inspired by a Danish caricature of the prophet Muhammad a few years ago….Well, that’s another story).

 

 

The British Museum is Falling Down, composed in 1965, makes a lively companion to Lodge’s later, more famous work How Far Can You Go? (also published as Souls and Bodies). Lodge’s primary subject...

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Mr. Blue

Mr. Blue is a little gem of a book – short but affecting, and featuring a memorably iconoclastic hero. Published in 1928, Myles Connolly’s first novel is like a Catholic answer to The Great Gatsby, questioning that distinctly American brand of materialism which offers big houses, fancy cars, and a bulging bank account as evidence of a person’s worth. As Fr. Breslin notes in his insightful introduction to this edition, “J. Blue was the man whom the ambitious Jay Gatsby might have become had he steered by a higher truth than the sound of money in Daisy Buchanan’s voice.&rdqu...

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The American

“You are not afraid it may be rather a mistake for an American man of business to marry a French countess?”

The American man of business is certainly not afraid it’s a mistake; it seems only too natural. Christopher Newman, a captain of American industry in his mid-thirties, travels to Europe to become a new man. Part of that entails finding a suitable bride. He is an eligible bachelor, unquestionably: good-looking, well-spoken, amiable, and incredibly rich. He has his pick of the lot and he knows it. So he bides his time, confident in his ability to make a good investment. ...

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The Loved One

One of my favorite stories about Evelyn Waugh finds him at a swank Parisian dinner party. After rudely belittling a helpless French intellectual with his characteristic boorishness, the host asked Evelyn how he could be so mean and still call himself a Catholic. “You have no idea,” Waugh answered, “how much nastier I would be if I was not Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being.”

Apparently supernatural aid did not intercede during the composition of Waugh’s The Loved One. Waugh described it as a “little nightmare” abou...

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Souls and Bodies

David Lodge’s Souls and Bodies won the Whitbread Book of the Year award in 1980. Whether it deserved such an honor or not, it is certainly a well-crafted account of British Catholicism circa the era of Vatican II.


Lodge charts the spiritual growth (“decay” might be more accurate) of a group of British men and women from their university days through young adulthood, blossoming careers, marriages, children, marital affairs, and on into middle age. Their development coincides with the innovations to the liturgy introduced by the Second Vatican Council...

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The Cardinal's Snuff-Box

Henry Harland’s The Cardinal’s Snuff-Box is a delightful Catholic romance-confection. Settle down into a comfortable armchair (preferably next to a blazing fire) with a cuppa tea or glass of dry sherry, and bathe in Harland’s creamy prose and Italy-set story.

Our hero is one Peter Marchdale, a rather lovelorn Londoner and writer of “beautiful” novels (which naturally have a readership of seven or so people), who is vacationing in Italy while working on a new book. Writing, however, seems to occupy very little of Marchdale’s time once he encounters the striking ...

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Catholic, Ink.

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Sign-up for this free weekly e-newsletter and receive the free article - "What is Catholic Fiction?" Read the weekly column The Catholic Imagination and You and more.