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Gospel Musings by Younger Authors

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Edited by Rick Moody

and Darcey Steinke

Little, Brown

247 pp., $23.95

A thought-provoking anthology of essays, "Joyful Noise: The New Testament Revisited" is a conscious attempt to enter into today's public debate about the values we live by.

Concerned that public discussion on spiritual and moral values is dominated by fundamentalist Christianity, the two editors - raised in religious households - called on fellow artists to speak about their personal experience with the Bible. They sought fresh insights about familiar scriptures to serve as possible models for ethical behavior.

The contributors are from a generation of young adults that, the editors say, often shies away from saying what it believes about spiritual values. But novelists Rick Moody and Darcey Steinke persuaded their colleagues to share private musings and personal interpretations of New Testament texts. The result is a heartfelt, surprising, frank, sometimes sad, and often funny book whose literary quality is consistently high even as its spiritual messages vary greatly.

Not all of the contributors are Christians. A Jew (Jim Lewis in "Was") discusses his admiration for the poetry and vision of John 1:1-18, even while disagreeing with its worldview. And a few speak of the community of secular humanists to which they belong. But the pleasure of this work lies in the way most delve into specific texts to find a passage's relevance to their lives.

In "Jesus Was a Convict," novelist and TV producer Kim Wozencraft discusses the power of Jesus' crucifixion between two criminals and his conversations with them, as presented in Luke 23, and how this has colored her perspective on the death penalty and her work with people in prison.


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