Books March 2015
Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist
By Jacqueline Houtman, Walter Naegle, and Michael G. Long. QuakerPress of FGC, 2014. 166 pages. $16/paperback. Recommended for ages 10 and up.
Reviewed by David Etheridge
The strength of this young people’s biography of Bayard Rustin is in the collaboration of its three authors. Professor Michael G. Long became fascinated with Bayard Rustin after reading about him in a book on Martin Luther King Jr. He decided to compile a book of Rustin’s letters and turned for help to Walter Naegle, who was Rustin’s partner for the last ten years of Rustin’s life. Naegle knows Rustin’s story well because of their personal relationship as well as his work with the Bayard Rustin Fund promoting Rustin’s values.
Naegle and Long decided to promote those values further by writing a biography for young people. They turned to QuakerPress of Friends General Conference to help them find someone with experience writing serious books for young people. They recruited Jacqueline Houtman, a Quaker from Madison, Wis., who has written fiction and nonfiction about bioscience for young people.
The goal of this book is not simply to inform young people about Rustin’s life, but to inspire them to become social activists. The book begins with a quote from Rustin: “We need in every community a group of angelic troublemakers.” The authors explain that Rustin believed such “angelic troublemakers” are essential to creating a better world. They invite young readers to “enjoy the pages ahead and then go make some trouble—angelically.”
The authors first engage their intended audience with several chapters about Rustin’s own youth. They describe how both his grandfather’s African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church and the Quaker faith of his grandmother influenced him. The daughter of the AME pastor taught Bayard elocution when he was in the fifth grade. The results of those lessons were apparent for the rest of his life whenever Rustin spoke. When his Quaker grandmother learned that he and some fifth-grade classmates had chanted a racist verse to a local Chinese American, she required her grandson to work at the man’s laundry every day after school for two weeks without pay. When Rustin went to college, he first attended the AME-founded Wilberforce University and then the Quaker-founded Cheyney State Teachers College.
Rustin later moved to New York City where he earned money by singing. He fought for racial equality, first with the Young Communist League and later with labor leader A. Philip Randolph, and also worked against war with the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR). When the United States joined the Second World War, Rustin refused to register for the draft and was imprisoned. While imprisoned, he advocated for the desegregation of the prison.
After his release, Rustin returned to work with FOR, but was fired after being convicted for a homosexual encounter while he was in Pasadena, Calif., to give a lecture on world peace at an event sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee.
The authors then recount how he got a job as an organizer with the War Resisters League, but was later called to Montgomery, Ala., during the bus boycott to advise Martin Luther King Jr. on the principles of nonviolence. The authors address at greater length his work in organizing the spectacularly successful 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
They briefly describe Rustin’s post-1963 career with the A. Philip Randolph Institute. They highlight Rustin’s decision not to challenge U.S. involvement in war in Vietnam and his ambivalence about the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign. The authors also examine Rustin’s leading a march of Memphis garbage workers that Martin Luther King Jr. had been planning to lead when he was killed, and his involvement with gay rights and various international human rights issues.
A final chapter addresses how Rustin has been honored after his death, including the controversial decision in 2002 to name a new high school for him in his hometown of West Chester, Pa., and the Presidential Medal of Freedom that President Obama awarded him in 2013.
This book is enriched by many illustrations as well as sidebars explaining concepts and events such as Quakerism, McCarthyism, apartheid, Jim Crow, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the Stonewall resistance. The authors demonstrate their commitment to treating their readers as scholars by including 126 endnotes, a detailed timeline, discussion questions, and a bibliography.
Like We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner, this book will interest young teenagers. Unlike Brimner’s photo essay collection of Rustin stories, however, this book will also engage older teenagers. It addresses in detail Rustin’s adult personal life and his interactions and conflicts with allies, which are an important part of the work of any activist. It is also a good introduction for adults of any age who are unfamiliar with Bayard Rustin.
David Etheridge is a member of Friends Meeting of Washington (D.C.) and clerk of the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Working Group on Racism.
Renewable: One Woman’s Search for Simplicity, Faithfulness, and Hope
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
By Naomi Klein. Simon & Schuster, 2014. 576 pages. $30/hardcover; $16.99/paperback; $12.99/eBook.
Reviewed by Mary Gilbert
“There is so much going on; people don’t know what to fight.” —Alexis Bonogofsky of the National Wildlife Federation, quoted in This Changes Everything
I am a map lover. I tend to focus on one thing at a time; having the whole landscape spread out lets me see where that one component fits into the bigger picture. What Naomi Klein does in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate is lay it all out, the way a mapmaker lays out a plan of the terrain, in one readable book.
The clear and terrifying dangers from climate disruption, with its tangle of causal factors and myriad interconnected results, convince me that “We must, we must, we must!” make big changes if we are to survive. On the other hand, the enormity of corporate power, flourishing essentially outside legal constraint, brings me to an equally strident “We can’t, we can’t, we can’t!” make those changes. This is a dilemma. With both “We must!” and “We can’t” sounding in my ears, I can go numb and inactive.
A lot of what Klein says about both climate and capitalism is not news to me. At the United Nations, I have experienced a steep learning curve on the complex causes of climate change, its cascading results, and the economic and political context in which it is negotiated. In recent years, I’ve also witnessed what many are calling a corporate takeover of the UN. All this can be paralyzing.
Klein’s gift to me as a reader is her thorough, sound research and organization of all this complex material to show the whole landscape, and she does it as if she is talking to us. By the end of the book, I feel energized and hopeful.
This Changes Everything has three sections: (1) “Bad Timing” lays out how and why the free-market economy blocks us from instituting the systemic changes we need, if we are to contain and even reverse global warming, as well as achieve both basic equality and decision-making power over our own lives; (2) “Magical Thinking” looks at the shocking coming together of Big Business and Big Green, and at some really scary geoengineering ideas now being considered to control rising temperatures; and (3) “Starting Anyway” shows an emerging global movement toward societal and planetary health.
I have personally witnessed some of this movement, in the form of civil society coalitions at the UN, such as Rights for Sustainability (R4S) and the 400,000-strong September 2014 People’s Climate March in New York City. The March, which was supported by hundreds of rallies in other places around the world, including the coalition mentioned above, is only one example among many of the scope of the burgeoning movement.
This movement can look scattered and uncoordinated, but this may not be a problem. A book by Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom, The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations, suggests that this new movement may be more like a starfish that can lose an arm and grow another than a spider, which dies if is head is cut off. Who am I to say it won’t succeed?
I think This Changes Everything should be read and discussed in monthly meetings around the world. I expect it will be controversial because many Friends have not deeply questioned the economic system that brings us comfort and convenience. Imagining life without it is a real challenge. A bigger challenge, though, is how to orchestrate a change from the system we have now to one that would be healthier for the planet and species such as ours. If we are to survive, humankind has to make deep-reaching choices for change.
Friend Brian Drayton teaches that Quaker testimonies are born when God troubles our inward peace because something is wrong. Our work then is to discern what we must do, or cease to do, to restore our peace with God. In this process, all our testimonies are born and based in action. We Quakers make changes, in our own living and in the society around us, by developing what after the fact are named as testimonies.
I believe that we are all called to the work of keeping our Earth livable. Our responses to this call will be as varied as our own natures and as way opens for each of us to participate, and that is fine. There is no one right thing to do. We can strain these opportunities to act through our testimonies.
Here are four traditional testimonies, and one newer one not yet fully widespread among Friends, to serve as sieves:
- For equality, does the proposed action embody fairness and justice based in love?
- For integrity, how will it affect my inward thoughts and outward behavior?
- For simplicity, is it consistent with my understanding of simplicity?
- For peace, will this reduce the seeds of war, in its most inclusive definition, in my life?
- For unity with nature, how will this action enhance the health of our God’s sacred Earth?
The last is the new one, which many are discovering through their own experience. My discovery is that Earth is best understood as a living entity, and our right role in the life of our planet is not dominance but participation. I feel my own life to be analogous to a corpuscle in the Earth’s bloodstream, in that I participate as a mobile component of the living systems that comprise our planet. Living with this knowledge changes how I see things and how I act.
This Changes Everything is the book I wish I had written. I find Klein’s approach, which is that of a reporter not an organizer, to be Quakerly. She doesn’t tell us what to do, but what she finds and leaves it up to us. “Here are the facts; now go pray about how you are called to respond.”
The “doom and gloom” danger is real; we struggle with it in Quaker Earthcare Witness in my local meeting and when we try to reach out to others. Some would rather go easy so as not to scare folks off; some would like us to acknowledge the whole problem right out front, so it can be faced. Each approach has merit.
Klein’s book is not a quick read. It covers a complex and controversial situation. You may come to places where you will want to stop until you get clear on one point before you go on. Reading it with a discussion group can both help you with what you’ve read and provide momentum to move past these places, so the author has the chance to walk you through the whole subject. The group may choose to discuss actions.
Right now, I am convinced that the most important single thing we as a community of mind and heart can do in the United States is prevent the fast-tracking of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), thereby setting a crucial precedent for dealing with the next big trade treaty coming our way, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union.
Here are the facts; now go pray about how you are called to respond.
Mary Gilbert is a member of the Steering Committee of Quaker Earthcare Witness, where she also serves on the United Nations Working Group. Mary is a member of Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Mass.) and has served on numerous committees there and in New England Yearly Meeting. Mary will sing at the drop of a hat.
Quiet Heroes: A Century of American Quakers’ Love and Help for the Japanese and Japanese-Americans
By Tsukasa Sugimura. Intentional Productions, 2014. 150 pages. $20/paperback.
Reviewed by Mitchell Santine Gould
Here is a small volume by Reverend Tsukasa Sugimura of the Orange County Christian Church (an Oriental Missionary Society Holiness Church in Cypress, Calif.) which will interest not only Friends but also students of religious history and American history, civil libertarians, sociologists, and many others. Louisa Hatanaka, the board chair of the Friends School in Tokyo, has called the book “highly moving” and concluded: “It was a privilege to read.”
Written in short, declarative sentences that lend themselves to translation into other languages, Quiet Heroes covers a brief introduction to Quaker history; Friends missionary and educational history in nineteenth-century Japan; the discrimination faced by Japanese immigrants in America; fleeting mentions of early-twentieth-century Japanese wars against Russia and China, and the dawn of World War II (referred to here as “the Pacific War”); Japanese American internment in numerous wartime concentration camps; attempts to defend the civil liberties of these citizens and their non-citizen parents; post-war resettlement; and the long struggle to claim redress, which finally culminated in reparations of $20,000 being paid to those internees who survived until 1990. The book’s scope is truly impressive, managing to cover an incredible amount of well-researched historical detail in such a small space.
Friends should read this book because—contrary to a tendency in Quaker “pop” culture—our history hardly ends with John Woolman or James Nayler, not to mention George Fox. In conveying this story of Japanese-Quaker cooperation, Sugimura has actually produced a telling presentation of some leading lights in twentieth-century Quakerism whose names are no longer on the lips of contemporary Friends, such as American Friends Service Committee executive Clarence Pickett, author and educator Elizabeth Gray Vining, and educator and activist Esther Rhoads. However, the account fails to illuminate significant distinctions between Friends United Meeting and Friends General Conference, while recounting how “Quakers” advocated for these immigrants. I hasten to add that Sugimura does not restrict his coverage to Quaker allies. His passion for honoring as many allies as possible is reflected in the identification of heroes from the Baptist, Methodist, Brethren, and other traditions, including Buddhism. An appendix is devoted to several brief biographies.
Unfortunately, this account is muddied by its mixture of thematic and chronological approaches. If it is long on appropriate gratitude, it is short on appropriate outrage. It does not adequately convey to the average reader the gravity of the massive and chilling assaults on the civil liberties of the beleaguered Japanese immigrants. Oddly enough, while Sugimura recounts the highly plausible but highly controversial proposition that President Roosevelt had full knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack and deliberately allowed it to take place in order to declare war on Japan, he fails to present the case that the actual motive for the government’s “internment” was a land-grab by envious West Coast Anglos, a consensus view in today’s Japanese American community. The book’s most puzzling and frustrating shortcoming, however, is that it fails to depict the fascinating origin of Japanese-Quaker relations in the pioneering ministry of Uchimura Kanzo, a nineteenth-century figure who synthesized Quaker and Bushido traditions to create a new hybrid religion called Mukyokai (non-church movement). Kanzo’s name is hardly mentioned, and Mukyokai is not mentioned at all, even though it is of vital importance in understanding the life of the great civil rights activist Gordon Hirabayashi, a Japanese American Quaker well known for his principled resistance to internment during World War II.
Mitchell Santine Gould enables financial advisors to collect data for use in emergencies. Curator of Leavesofgrass.org, he is the leading authority on Walt Whitman’s rise among “sailors, lovers, and Quakers.” Together with the LGBT Religious Archives Network, he documents the historical intersection between Quakers and gay people.
Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration
By Mark Adams et al. Morehouse Publishing, 2013. 125 pages. $18/paperback; $16/eBook.
Reviewed by Dave Austin
Unprogrammed Friends do not have a priestly class or formal, paid pastors, so you might wonder what a text consisting of essays by faith leaders and actual bishops from the Presbyterian, United Methodist, Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches would have to say to that Quaker community in regard to the issue of immigration. The answer is: a lot.
Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration presents the perspectives of five faith leaders whose various life experiences have led or drawn them to the border, where each has seen (and in one case, lived) what is happening there. After an informative introduction by Mark Adams, which lays out the history behind and the major points of contention surrounding the issue, we meet United Methodist bishop Minerva Carcaño, whose father was an immigrant to the United States as part of the bracero program. For her, what is happening today in regards to immigration is more than just spiritual or personal: it is part of who she is. I found her essay to be especially poignant and powerful.
Next, Chicago-born and raised Catholic bishop Gerald Kicanas, himself the descendant of immigrants from Syria and Lebanon, speaks eloquently in his essay about his culture shock when he arrived in Tucson, Ariz., to take over the diocese there. He draws parallels between the scenes of suffering he saw depicted in visits to the death camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, and the emotions he felt in those horrific places, to what he witnessed in Mexico. Kicanas crossed the border so that he could minister to immigrants who were preparing to make the crossing into the United States. No, the Holocaust is not the same as the current immigration crisis, but Kicanas points out that they are both examples of terrible human suffering. He wonders and anguishes over the silence that accompanied both of these tragedies, and what that silence says about us as a nation.
Each of the faith leaders whose stories we hear in these essays has similar experience to share. Each brings her or his own interpretation of Scripture and their personal experiences to support their opinions about immigration and immigrants, and what our national policy toward these people should be. They each, for example, refer to biblical teachings about “the stranger” and the idea of radical hospitality. And Quakers do get a shout-out here: Lutheran bishop Stephen Talmage, whose piece closes the book, relays the story of his maternal grandfather “whose religious roots connected him to the Quakers.” He discusses the conflicts within the Religious Society of Friends regarding slavery and abolition, and uses this history to illustrate “the tension within a faith community as they struggle to address a complex moral, spiritual, and national issue.”
As I write this, President Obama has just announced what he will do regarding immigration reform. In so doing, he has fanned the flames of discontent over immigration. No matter which policy changes eventually come about, there will be people on all sides of this bitter debate who will not be satisfied. The fear and anger will continue and at some point, if we haven’t already, we will each have to decide where we stand. We know what the bishops have to say. As George Fox was said to have asked, “What canst thou say?” Perhaps something in this deeply personal and inspirational book will help you find your answer.
Dave Austin is a member of Haddonfield (N.J.) Meeting. He lives in Marlton, N.J., where he teaches middle school world history and Holocaust studies.
Secrets of a Soulful Marriage: Creating & Sustaining a Loving, Sacred Relationship
By Jim and Ruth Sharon. Skylight Paths, 2014. 164 pages. $16.99/paperback or eBook.
Reviewed by Brad Sheeks
Jim and Ruth Sharon have written a solid how-to book that covers the bases in that challenging game of life: having a vital, long-term couple relationship.
My first wife, Bev, and I called it quits when our marriage of ten years seemed broken beyond repair. Two years later I sat beside Patricia McBee in a meeting for worship with attention to marriage at Central Philadelphia (Pa.) Meeting. As I stood to exchange vows, I had my fingers crossed thinking maybe I’m good for ten years, tops! Long-term commitments felt hard to achieve in those days.
But something new and alive was sprouting. Friends General Conference (FGC) was starting a program developed by David and Vera Mace called Marriage Enrichment. At that same time, similar programs were being developed by church groups to strengthen couple relationships. Patricia and I have led Couple Enrichment Retreats for over 35 years.
Jim and Ruth Sharon’s work is a manifestation of the ongoing relationship enhancement movement. Their website profile refers to more than 40 years of professional and personal experience offering useful perspectives, tools, and practices that cultivate a soulful marriage relationship.
For the Sharons, the key word is “soulful.” They write, “You are spiritual beings having human experiences on earth, each with your own purpose. You support each other to fulfill your individual and shared purposes.”
They invite couples to privately consider three questions and share their responses with each other as follows: “How can I help you to know yourself better?” “How can I be more genuine with you?” “How can I more graciously receive from you, and in what ways can I give more of myself?”
One of the issues that all couples face is how to be your true self and also be a satisfying partner, recognizing that we might bring unrealistic expectations to the relationship. The Sharons address this issue by setting up two different ways of thinking.
The conventional model is “Be who your partner wants you to be.” This means to be loved you must fulfill your sweetheart’s image of you, hiding the unwanted parts and only show what is acceptable. You must meet all your partner’s needs.
They suggest an alternative Soulful Model. Be your authentic self. They remind us that we damage our marriage when we hide, not letting our partner see us in a complete and whole manner.
As an aside, I might note that this issue is more fully developed by Jordan and Margaret Paul in their book Do I Have to Give Up Me to Be Loved by You? Patricia and I found the Pauls’ book very helpful when we addressed this challenge in our own marriage.
Two chapters in particular show the heart of Secrets: “Speaking and Listening in a Dance” has to do with our communication skills, and “Respecting and Cherishing Your Beloved” deals with avoiding the damage we cause when we disrespect and demean our partner. Here comes the tricky part. How do we respond to our partner regarding this or any similar set of questions? The Sharons offer a full set of suggestions on how to proceed. I like, for example, their QTIP, which stands for Quit Taking It Personally. It’s such a simple suggestion, isn’t it? Yet too often something is “all about me.” They suggest, “What your partner is going through may not have anything to do with you. Be a conscious observer and a patient lover.”
For those who want to go further, they offer a good list of books for further reading, including two that Patricia and I have found useful: John M. Gottman and Nan Silver’s The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and Harville Hendrix’s Getting the Love You Want.
To learn about workshops with Jim and Ruth Sharon, go to their website at energyforlife.us/secrets-of-a-soulful-marriage. You can connect with the FGC Couple Enrichment program at fgcquaker.org/services.
Brad Sheeks is a member of Central Philadelphia (Pa.) Meeting. He and his wife, Patricia McBee, are retired FGC Couple Enrichment program leaders. They came out of retirement to lead a Valentine’s Day workshop for couples in February 2015.
American Afterlife: Encounters in the Customs of Mourning
By Kate Sweeney. University of Georgia Press, 2014. 216 pages. $24.95/hardcover or eBook.
Reviewed by Judith Favor
Two and a half million Americans died in 2013. Kate Sweeney, narrative journalist and producer at National Public Radio, set out to learn what choices 2.5 million people are making, and what their stories say about the entire American landscape of mourning. Her discoveries make very entertaining and insightful reading for Friends of all ages.
Someone dies. What happens next?
With warmth, humor, and clarity, Sweeney leads readers behind the scenes of embalming chambers, crematoriums, urn gardens, and undersea eternal reefs. She captures the essence of morticians, museum directors, and funeral chaplains, presenting personal views and values behind public faces.
A death leaves a raw absence. What happens next?
American Afterlife is illuminated with personal stories of how we remember loved ones. Meet Georgia, founder of Friends of Obits (Fobits), a dedicated group of obituarists devoted to the craft of writing about the dead. Meet Sarah, a tattoo artist who assists “people in mourning to translate an emotional throbbing into a physical one, and emerge intact on the other side with a beautiful scar.” Meet Oana, a photographer who volunteers at hospitals to take memorial photographs of parents cradling their dying and deceased infants. Meet one grieving mother who wears a locket containing her daughter’s hair, another who wears a necklace containing her son’s ashes, and a third who tends a garden at her daughter’s roadside memorial. Each story contains tender details that help to reveal the larger meanings behind the way we, as modern Americans, honor our dead.
At the end of the chapter titled “Give Me That Old Time Green Burial,” Sweeney reflects: “Most of us seek something larger out of death—some promise of an afterlife, some assurance of permanence just when that permanence feels most threatened. At Ramsey Creek, assurance is found in a patch of impatiens growing where a son lies, or in the mountain laurel that blooms above a mother’s grave. . . . In this way the dead literally become part of the living.”
What will become of my own cremains when the medical school finishes with my donated body. What happens next?
This reviewer is not the first to imagine ashes blowing across Yosemite Valley or the Grand Canyon. National Park Service leaders, recognizing an unstoppable phenomenon, have crafted a system of permits and guidelines. Statistics are up, not counting those who scatter first and ask questions later. To a generation increasingly turned off to burial, scattering beloved ashes in places of natural grandeur can offer a sense of reunion with the earth.
Judith Favor belongs to Claremont (Calif.) Meeting. This book prompted her to initiate a conversation about green burial with her family.
No Stones in Heaven
By Arlene Swift Jones. The Troy Book Makers, 2014. 306 pages. $17/paperback.
Reviewed by Beth Taylor
No Stones in Heaven is a memorable historical novel about Quakers in Iowa. Based on research into her family’s emigration from Norway in the 1880s, Arlene Swift Jones crafted a vivid and quintessentially American story.
An award-winning author of several books of poetry and memoir, Jones created a realistic, multi-generational narrative, weaving together history, fiction, and autobiography.
The novel begins with the story of Quakers who fled persecution for their “heretical” beliefs in Norway and founded a community of like-minded farmers in America’s heartland, its “limitless black earth, rolling and rolling away into the distance.” In a letter home, one character tries to explain the allure of this land, saying there are “no stones in heaven.”
Kristina and Salve Knudsen settle on the fertile land of Legrand, Iowa, and slowly build a farm, expanding it to hundreds of acres over a decade. Their lives are defined by daily hard work, raising seven children, accidents, illness, and the taciturn reserve characteristic of the Norwegian and Quaker cultures. Life changes dramatically when Kristina dies after childbirth, inevitably affecting the fates of Salve and their children.
Jones captures the psychologies of her characters, as well as the changing demands of their times. She evokes the bonds and tensions between family; neighbors; and Friends Meeting, including the rift between “heart-preaching” and “scripture-preaching” Quakers and the eventual blending through marriage with Lutherans.
Jones brings the story into the decades of her own life through the character of Andrea, who is raised in the 1930s working with her father “summer and winter, in the barn, in the fields, sitting on his lap as he harrowed or ploughed, later on the broad sweaty backs of horses.” She and her siblings wrestle with their mother’s belief that “one was born perfect—as the Quakers believed—that it was the world that stained and corrupted.” The legacy of such belief is guilt like a low-grade fever, judging them if they don’t, or can’t, live up to the ideals of the farm or the faith.
The vicissitudes of farming, buffeted by weather and industrialization, eventually lead to large corporations pushing smaller farmers aside, including the once thriving farm built by Salve and Kristina. Their great-grandsons work in factories “making valves for motors, or . . . in the meat-packing plant, or as carpenters; their wives had become clerks, school teachers, secretaries.”
Andrea chooses to leave the farm and head east for Columbia University and the life of the mind. After graduation, she travels to Norway to track down her ancestors, then looks for work in Europe and meets the man she will marry, a man “with the sun in him,” which she needs because “she had too much winter in her, Iowa winters, Norwegian winters.” She raises three girls with him in different countries as he works in foreign service, and they lead a life very different from her Iowa roots, even as the farm and Quakerism never really let her go.
This was the final writing project of Arlene Swift Jones, who died in 2013. It is a page-turner: cinematic, instructive, often heartbreaking, and an impressive last act of a very fine writer.