“People magazine is a Bible without the Book of Job.”

The above quote is from Eve Tushnet’s review of Christopher Beha’s Arts & Entertainments, released just last month. I haven’t yet read it, but it seems that A&E is a freewheeling satire that, like much of Waugh’s early work, affirms the truth of human dignity by the via negativa. By contrast, Beha’s debut, What Happened to Sophie Wilder, is a no-holds-barred Serious Novel. Beha, a cradle Catholic* who later left the Church, is on record as saying that “faith became much more interesting to me once I didn’t have it,” and that Sophie Wilder is an attempt to provide a sympathetic portrait of a believer through the eyes of one who seeks to understand that belief from the outside. It seems that D. Z. Myers at Books and Culture has picked up on this and is declaring Beha as a Catholic novelist “with a literary project far more profound [than proselytism]—to display religion as inextricably woven into human life, or what the great Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would have described as its ‘inscape.'” Do read the whole thing here. It’s not too much to say that Sophie Wilder had a profound effect on me; I’m still wrestling with whether it is that rare thing, a hagiography in literary fiction, or a startling inversion of the same. 

* Updated: an earlier version read that Beha was a convert, but this was incorrect. My apologies.


  1. Paul S. says

    I wouldn’t call it “freewheeling.” I was hoping for something in the zany vein of Waugh but most of the story was all too real. He has a few funny names for products or tv shows but the story is almost as serious as Sophie Wilder.