If Oxford brings to mind cobblestones, study rooms at the top of winding stone stairs, and kettles at the ready, then Carolyn Weber’s memoir, Sex and the City of God: A Memoir of Love and Longing, will bear out every thought you’ve had about the place. Following up on her 2013 memoir, Surprised by Oxford, Weber returns to the beloved school where she received her PhD in literature and met her husband, identified only as TDH (Tall, Dark, and Handsome).
She writes of her years as a young adult, turning over events like the stones she has walked on to reveal some of the crud, yes, but ultimately the rich soil beneath them. While including sex in the title is a bit misleading (there’s certainly nothing how-to in the book), it is a recurring theme, however vague, as Weber makes the point that physical sex foreshadows our ultimate union with Christ. As Augustine put it, “The sexual intercourse of man and woman, then, is in the case of mortals a kind of seed-bed of the [heavenly] city.”
Weber’s story begins with an emotionally and physically complicated scene involving an ex-boyfriend. She’s home from Oxford for her birthday. It’s stormy out, and they are in her family’s run-down spare vacation cabin. She has just become a Christian. There is a bed. They are on the bed. She knows the bed should be off limits. There is a knock on the door. It is her father (or, ahem, the Holy Spirit). She quickly buttons up her blouse. Thus, Weber sets the stage for the account of her dating years at Oxford and her journey toward a mature faith, a story shaped by many literary works that influenced her at the time.
One of the enjoyable things about a book written by a PhD in literature is that poetry ...1
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