Culture Reviews



“Any way I tell this story is a lie,” begins Mary Karr’s searingly honest memoir, “Lit” (Harper, $25.99).

A lie because any attempt to tell one’s life story is necessarily full of memories not so much retrieved intact as reconstructed. And in Karr’s case, they are reconstructed from the haze of years of alcoholic stupor and hangover.

Karr’s journey to sobriety is long and unsteady. It is when she finds Catholicism — after a life of unabashed atheism — that her sobriety takes root.

“Catholics aren’t who I thought they’d be, not even close,” she observes during one of her first visits to a Catholic church. “It isn’t the ritual of the high Mass that impresses me, but the people — their collective surrender.”

Karr, a poet and professor of literature at Syracuse University in upstate New York, is responsible for something of a recent craze in memoirs.

Her previous books, about her childhood and teen years in East Texas, “The Liar’s Club” (Penguin, $15) and “Cherry” (Penguin, $15), were best-sellers and won critical praise.


‘Avatar’ and the worldwide zeitgeist

James Cameron’s “Avatar” is well on its way to sinking the worldwide box office record of his previous smash hit, “Titanic.” After just four weeks, it had already hauled in $429 million, making it seventh on the all-time list of highest-grossing films.

The 3-D movie, which features amazing special effects and a rather simplistic plot about a struggle between humans and Na’vi, the humanoid natives on the verdant planet of Pandora, is also sparking a deluge of commentary about its meaning.

While some, such as Ross Douthat of The New York Times, criticize the seeming pantheism of the Na’vi (their deity is a Mother Earth-type goddess, and the connectedness of all of creation on Pandora, including the trees, is emphasized), others, like Rod Dreher, writing on his blog, see the movie as a conversion story, with the film’s hero, ex-Marine Jake Sully, finding new meaning among the Na’vi.

Internationally, the Vatican’s L’Osservatore Romano has also weighed in, faulting “Avatar” (rated PG-13 with a USCCB rating of A-III for adults only) for lacking “genuine human emotions” while acknowledging its “stupefying, enchanting technology.”


Bringing the Cure D’Ars to life

As the Catholic Church celebrates the Year for Priests through June, a one-man stage production is touring the country, giving audiences a chance to become acquainted with the holy man who has figured so prominently in the celebrations — St. John Vianney. Leonardo Defilippis, an actor and director best known for the film “Thérèse,” portrays the French priest in the drama, simply titled “Vianney.”

“I find the character of John Vianney extremely endearing,” Defilippis said in a statement. “He was a truly eccentric character, wearing a ragged cassock, living on a diet of nothing but one potato a day, yet sparing no expense for the Church or his children. … There is an urgency in him that is extraordinary and convicting.”

To see the tour schedule, visit or call (800) 683-2998.


The ‘Lost’ Supper?

Since its debut in 2004, the ABC television show “Lost” has had viewers discussing its religious and spiritual undertones. The series about plane-wreck survivors struggling to survive on an island is playing up that theme as it enters its final season Feb. 2.

One of the posters released to promote the season mirrors Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous “Last Supper,” with cast members gathering around a table à la Jesus and his disciples in the Renaissance masterpiece.

As the Washington Post’s On Faith blog noted, this is not the first time a TV series has aped the painting, which, of course, also appeared prominently in Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.” “The Sopranos,” “Battlestar Galactica” and “House” have also been similarly inspired by the great master.