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WaPo compares Jeff Sharlet to Didion, McPhee, Mailer

by Brad A. Greenberg

August 20, 2011 | 1:14 pm

There are three (previously) new books sitting on my desk that are awaiting a post on this blog. I always like getting review copies, but I’m miserable about cracking them open and then offering some commentary within a relevant time period. (Note to book publishers.) So when Jeff Sharlet told me about his new book last week, I decided that, for once, I wouldn’t take a review copy.

I’m regretting that unusual act of discipline. I’ve written about Sharlet’s previous books and mentioned him more than a few times on this blog. He’s long been a great religion writer. And his latest book, “Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness and the Country in Between,” appears to be nothing new. At least for Sharlet.

Here’s a review from The Washington Post that gushes:

Jeff Sharlet delivers a fine dose of thoughtful skepticism in “Sweet Heaven When I Die,” his collection of 13 trenchant essays on how we gain, lose, maintain and blindly accept faith. The book belongs to the tradition of long-form, narrative journalism best exemplified by writers such as Joan Didion, John McPhee, Norman Mailer and Sharlet’s contemporary David Samuels. Sharlet deserves a place alongside such masters, for he has emerged as a master investigative stylist and one of the shrewdest commentators on religion’s underexplored realms.

What Sharlet has done best since his days founding Killing The Buddha with Peter Manseau is get to the heart of why people believe what they believe, regardless of whether its a faith in religion or anti-religion, and to capture real portraits of real people, not just the caricatures who get obsessed over by so much of the mainstream media.

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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