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march, thus reinforcing the stereotype of Episcopalians as aloof and superior. Margaret's temptation to give in to Grace's demands is strong because High Balsam, a picturesque summer retreat for the wealthy, has already been rocked by violence between the haves and the have-nots. Margaret's second visitor is a peculiar old monk of questionable identity, wearing black Nikes beneath his habit and sporting orangish, dyed hair. A third visitor is a troubled youth, Chase Zorn, from the school at which Margaret's husband, another priest, teaches. The time of year is Advent and, given the season and the three visitors, one almost expects a baby to materialize out of all this. In this small-town Southern setting , a Flannery O'Connor-style confrontation between Margaret Bonner and Grace Munger would hardly surprise us, with the smug Episcopalians losing the most. In fact, both sides lose: Margarefs church goes up in flames, and Grace's march is a miserable flop, proving perhaps that God snows on both thejust and the unjust. The EpiscopaUans' measured, reasonable concept of grace does prevail throughout the novel, however. Godwin admirably refrains from oversimplification of the fundamentalists . Margaret Bonner's primary objection to Grace Munger's published "Christian Manifesto for a Wounded Town" is that it promises what it can't and shouldn't deUver: easy and instantaneous control over one's life through belief in God. Margaret preaches a more difficult vision of grace, which requires submission to the Christian paradox that one must lose one's life in order to gain it. Yet there is something very compelling in Grace's demand that Margaret recognize her as a "sister in Christ." Godwin maintains a fine tension between Margarefs weU-honed integrity and her urge to embrace Grace's paradoxicaUy worldly image of divine grace. With such a colorful, almost mythical character as Grace Munger, the reader may feel disappointed that Godwin fails to do something more dramatic with her. The reader may also find the dialogue of Evensong a bit wooden at times. Not even weU-educated, uppercrust EpiscopaUans typically speak in long paragraphs—at least not without sounding tedious. The epilogue , in which Margaret suddenly reveals that she has been speaking to her twenty-year-old daughter in the year 2020, is predictable, and entirely unnecessary to close the novel. Godwin's Evensong deUvers some gems of wisdom that are appealing to those of us who are stiU drawn to religious beUef at the close of the twentieth century. For example, sin is defined as "a falling short of your totality." Marriage should make more out of both partners. On the question of belief: "I'm not sure I beUeve as much as recognize. BeUef seems to me something that is willed. But there are times when I definitely recognize the presence of something beyond me working through me." (NS) Playingfor Keeps: Michael Jordan and the World He Made by David Halberstam Random House, 1999, 428 pp., $24.95 Every biographer of Michael Jordan—and there will be many— 216 · The Missouri Review must confront a monumental and seemingly impossible task: how to write a book about a supercelebrity and the overexposed basketbaU franchise he works for when the media has already covered every aspect of his life and team? The whole world knows the story: the beautiful, likeable Jordan becomes the most celebrated athlete in the world and "a one-man corporate conglomerate," and the Bulls win six NBA championships . Potential biographers might take a lesson from Pulitzer Prize-winning sportswriter and historian David Halberstam's approach in this book. Halberstam shrewdly acts as if he were breaking the news of Jordan's epic career. This sUghtly naive, wideeyed approach allows him to create suspense as he detaUs the Bulls' rise to greatness and the evolution of the superstar basketball player once described as a "Jesus in Nikes." In Halberstam's hands, biography becomes page-turning mystery as he achieves the near impossible—doubt about Jordan's and the BuUs' success. Each time the team comes up against a formidable foe, he miraculously generates the fear that they could in fact lose. Halberstam creates the same kind of anxiety...


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pp. 216-218
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