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The wicked and the holy

October 24, 2008 |  2:16 pm


The Witches, Demons and Thieves Puritan (and literary) Halloween party in New York last night featured Maud Newton, Kathleen Kent ("The Good Daughter") and Hannah Tinti. Tinti, who is the editor of One Story magazine, has recently published her first novel, "The Good Thief," and is giving interviews all around. The bewitching evening included a quiz, which Maud is sharing online. Sample question:

Strings of deaths in families led to the belief, in 19th Century New England, that one of the dead had transformed into a vampire and was returning at night to feast on everyone else. In the most famous of these cases, when Mercy Brown’s brother became ill soon after her death, their father ordered the girl dug up. Finding her oddly well-preserved, and her heart full of fresh blood, he cut out her heart, burned it, and fed the ashes to the boy, who died anyway. What very contagious disease do scientists say was actually killing these people?

No need to turn to the Dark Lord for the answer -- it's multiple choice.

Here in LA, I was sad to miss* Marilynne Robinson and Michael Silverblatt at the Central Library. Robinson's new book, "Home" -- the second with an Iowa reverend as an important character -- has been nominated for the National Book Award in fiction. Mark Sarvas was there, shot a bit of video, and jotted down some of what Robinson said, including:

There's nothing in the world I admire more than a good sermon.

I'd say most people find sermons tedious, but the understanding that Robinson admires them -- that she likes the idea of faith coupled with moral instruction, told in the form of a story -- may help me frame my reading of "Home," which I just picked up yesterday. Perhaps coincidentally, faith and morality was a running theme at Sarvas' blog The Elegant Variation this week. He also interviewed Rob Riemen, author of "Nobility of Spirit." When prompted to ask himself a question and answer it, Riemen responded: "Can faith move mountains? Yes, but always step by step." 

-- Carolyn Kellogg

* I was at an Online News Association meeting -- duly twittering.

Photo by Oneras [free Tibet] via Flickr