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Only the brave and the foolish attempt a book about sex, but J. Bud (as we, his faithful readers, refer to him) serenely avoids the usual pitfalls in this lucid and blessedly concise overview. No forced jocularity here, no prissiness, no muddle. Working on common ground, he doesn't assume the transcendent but rather leads up to it: "Nature points beyond herself," he writes in the last chapter, and "ultimately, human love only makes sense in the light of divine love. The point is not that divine love means something and human love doesn't. Human love means so much, because divine love means still more."

The Dickens Dictionary: An A-Z of England's Greatest Novelist
John Sutherland (Icon Books)


How are you celebrating the Dickens bicentennial? So many books by and about him (not to mention all those adaptations for movies and TV), so little time. You can't go wrong with this gloriously idiosyncratic guide by John Sutherland, with entries running from "Amuthement" to "Zoo Horrors." And if there's someone in the family you'd like to entice to read Dickens for the first time (or the first time since high school, at least), simply leave a copy of Sutherland's book lying around. That will do the trick.

Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit
Edited by Anna O. Marley (University of California Press)


The African American artist Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937) was profoundly Christian in a way that wasn't congenial to the art history lawgivers of the past century. By contrast, this splendid catalogue, which accompanies a major exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, takes Tanner on his own terms. See, for example, among several outstanding essays, Marc Simpson on Tanner's The Resurrection of Lazarus and Robert Cozzolino's ...

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May 2012

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