The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Best this month


The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen's Guide to Keeping Hope Alive in a Time of Fear
by Paul Rogat Loeb is a soul-stirring anthology of 50 essays that we guarantee will lift the spirits of anyone looking for reasons to carry on in the struggle to create a better world. In chapters on "Seeds of the Possible," "Dark Before the Dawn," "Everyday Grace," "The Flight of Our Dreams," "Courage Is Contagious," "The Global Stage," "Radical Dignity," "Beyond Hope" and "Only Justice Can Stop a Curse," Loeb presents inspiring essays and excerpts from Nelson Mandela, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Henri Nouwen, Parker Palmer, Walter Wink, Sister Rosalie Bertell, Jim Wallis, Cornel West, Terry Tempest Williams, Desmond Tutu and many others.

Some of our favorite pieces help us remember that peril and despair breed hope, not helplessness. Check out Marion Wright Edelman's passionate plea on behalf of children; savor Howard Zinn's wise thoughts on the optimism of uncertainty; let Scott Russell Sanders enthrall you with his essay on hope across the generations; take in the profundity of Tony Kushner's reflections on despair as a lie we tell ourselves; and ponder the power in Arundhati Roy's observations on Sept. 11 and global justice. Doubts, fear, emotional burnout and "compassion fatigue" will always eat at our resources of hope. That's when it's good to have a book like this handy (Basic Books, 2004).


Vanity Fair
is an exquisite screen adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel as a morality play with great relevance for our times. In America today, the "winning class" enjoys great prosperity and all the perks that come with power and prestige. Everybody else, it seems, wants to join their ranks.

This story, set in the 1850s, depicts the attempts of Becky Sharp (Reese Witherspoon), the daughter of a starving English artist and a French chorus girl, to transcend her humble beginnings and gain access to the glittering high society of Regency England. Her climb begins with a job as a governess for a country gentleman (Bob Hoskins), where she charms his sister (Eileen Atkins), who takes her to London, and his son Rawdon (James Purefoy), who marries her. Later, an art collector (Gabriel Byrne) becomes her benefactor, seeing that she is able to enter the parlors and parties of high society, which turns out to be much different than the world she imagined.

Becky's yearning is carried into our hearts by the sympathetic performance of Witherspoon, who proved her acting mettle in Election and the Legally Blonde comedies. She puts us in touch with the envy that lies in wait, threatening to overtake all of us. She also reminds us that we have a social climber inside who is never satisfied with what we have and always craves more (Focus Features — PG-13, some sensuality, partial nudity, brief violent image).


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February issue


Embracing diversity