Jeff Sharlet's 'Sweet Heaven When I Die' | Reading | Indy Week
Pin It

Jeff Sharlet's 'Sweet Heaven When I Die' 

Jeff Sharlet

Jeff Sharlet

Twelve years ago, my Aunt Debra committed suicide in bed. She had been raised Methodist, but at the time of her death, at age 54, she was a devotee of the occult. Yet when the police arrived at her house, they not only removed from her hand a 9 mm gun, but also from her lap a Bible. She had opened it to the 23rd Psalm, which she had circled.

Was this her last-ditch expression of faith? An act of hope? A dispatch from the depths of despair?

I found, if not answers, at least meditations, in Jeff Sharlet’s new nonfiction book, Sweet Heaven When I Die: Faith, Faithlessness and the Country In Between. (Norton, 256 pp.) “Most of us live in the country in between,” Sharlet told the Indy. “Faith is complicated. Faith and doubt are linked.”

This elegantly written collection of stories features characters such as philosopher Cornel West, fundamentalist Christians, anarchists, a New Age healer and a Jewish author and Holocaust survivor. In his portrayals of imperfect and even broken people, Sharlet toes the fault lines of religious or quasi-religious experience. Sharlet toes the fault lines of religious—or quasi-religious—experience.

Sharlet wrote the stories while working on two books that dissect the intersection of American fundamentalism and politics, C Street: The Fundamentalist Threat to American Democracy and The Family. Disillusioned by the “deep, deep dishonesty” that he uncovered in reporting those books, Sharlet found refuge in Sweet Heaven. “It cheered me up,” he said.

The tone of Sweet Heaven, while elegiac, is nonetheless uplifting. It captures what West, whose chapter, “Begin With the Dead,” calls “subversive joy.” West’s description of his radical Christian beliefs bears reading and rereading: “The painful laughter of blues notes and the terrifying way of the cross,” West says.

  • The award-winning author reads from his book tonight at the Center for Documentary Studies in Durham.

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in Reading



Twitter Activity

Comments

Carolyn,
Liquid shampoo was invented in 1927. Shampoo was invented in 1898 as a water-soluble powder. And anyway if there …

by Constance Keptic on Pit Bulls May or May Not Be Dangerous. But Bronwen Dickey Can Attest That Writing About Them Definitely Is. (Reading)

On page 178, Dickey describes a fatal pit bull attack that Delise refuses to label as a fatal pit bull …

by Lucy Muir on Pit Bulls May or May Not Be Dangerous. But Bronwen Dickey Can Attest That Writing About Them Definitely Is. (Reading)

© 2016 Indy Week • 201 W. Main St., Suite 101, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation