Rapture Ready

Why would a self-described New York Jewish liberal immerse himself for a year in the "parallel universe" of evangelical Christian popular culture? Partly from a misplaced fear of the so-called religious right, but largely from a genuine curiosity about this burgeoning alternative to mainstream pop. What journalist Radosh finds is a world peopled with Christian versions of Eminem, Hulk Hogan, Jon Stewart, and Dr. Ruth, all of whom find biblical support for their unusual ministries. A Christian retailing show, for example, offers a glimpse of a multimillion-dollar industry in ?Jesus junk? -- mostly ordinary stuff with Scripture printed on it. Radosh teases out the meanings of numerous books, videos, and CDs, many of which espouse a radically apocalyptic faith. He avoids actual church services in favor of Christian raves and comedy clubs, where he meets both intolerant literalists and ?postmodern? believers who embody a more magnanimous ethos. Despite the author's occasional turn to sarcasm and a tendency to see anti-Semitism behind every cross, this well-written book gets at the true heterodoxy of current evangelical culture. When he lets his subjects speak for themselves, they often reveal genuine faith and a desire to share their joy with others. And they do so with more self-questioning then you might expect. No longer rejecting popular culture, Christians enter the mainstream with a greater burden -- they have to reconcile both art and commerce with their beliefs. Radosh documents their struggles with both the skepticism and sympathy of an outsider.

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."