Morte D'urban by J.f. PowersMorte D'urban by J.f. Powers

Morte D'urban

byJ.f. PowersIntroduction byElizabeth Hardwick

Paperback | May 31, 2000

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Winner of The 1963 National Book Award for Fiction.

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.
J. F. Powers (1917-1999) was born in Jacksonville, Illinois, and studied at Northwestern University while holding a variety of jobs in Chicago and working on his writing. He published his first stories in The Catholic Worker and, as a pacifist, spent thirteen months in prison during World War II. Powers was the author of three collecti...
Title:Morte D'urbanFormat:PaperbackDimensions:360 pages, 7.9 × 5 × 0.75 inPublished:May 31, 2000Publisher:New York Review BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0940322234

ISBN - 13:9780940322233

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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Snapshot of history This book won the national book award in 1963 for fiction. Our hero Father Urban is a little quirky and self-centered; yet even with those faults it is hard not to sympathize with him. I approached this book with some regret. It was the last of Powers' works I would have the chance to read. So I took my time and slowly read chapter by chapter, savoring the book over a much longer period than I normally would. The book was both satisfying and a bit of a disappointment. It was satisfying in that I have now completed the published books of J. F. Powers. It was also sad because of this fact. It was a bit disappointing in that the story feels unfinished. Like a chapter was left out when it went to printing. Some of the plot was inevitable, and predictable, but the characters you meet along the way make the book very engaging and entertaining. I am a post Vatican II baby. As such, I do not know the Latin Mass - have only read books, and seen films of what the church was like before that period. Powers is a master at creating characters, and characters that are believable. His priests, brothers, monsignors and even bishops are believable to anyone who has had serious interactions even with clergy of today. I know of a priest locally who could be an Urban walking off the page to take up ministry today. Many segments of this book were previously published as short stories in a variety of sources. Powers was a master at the short story, but his creative genius was his ability to take those short stories and turn them into a convincing novel. He has done this with both his published novels - this book Morte D'Urban and Wheat That Springeth Green. Both books were nominated for the National Book Award and Urban won. That is the testament to Powers' power and prowess with the quill. It is also witness to his ability to transcend the short story, a genre that appears to be going by the wayside, and to compile books of great depth and insight. Modern author Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club, wanted to write a book of short stories, but his publisher, even with his popularity after Fight Club, would not allow him a book of short stories. Then Palauniuk wrote Haunted a collection of characters' personal stories told by a group of writers locked in a building. Powers achieves what Palahniuk does not in that his stories flow together seamlessly, where Palahniuk's are obviously individual stories. This book is worth the read for anyone wanting a glimpse of insight into post World War II Catholicism, especially in the Midwest. But it is also a great study of people and why they do what they do - what drives them to achieve, their dreams and ultimately their failures and defeats. Unfortunately I have now read all of Powers' fiction. Fortunately the 2 books and 3 collections of short stories can be savored again and again. I can predict I have not finished with reading Powers, or Urban.
Date published: 2008-10-22

Editorial Reviews

“D’Urban is a gem—a supremely funny tale about Father Urban, a Midwestern priest who believes in golf, baseball, scotch, and the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps in that order. Fr. Urban’s struggles with the management of a parish are rendered with a comic’s timing, and Powers’s prose and dialogue are as sharp as anything in Flannery O’Connor. Is anyone as funny today? Maybe David Gates; maybe Tom Drury.” —Publishers Weekly "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