Paperback. English. Henry Holt. 2009. In good condition.
A fascinating, intelligent, and sometimes funny tour of the human relics at the root of the world's major religionsBy examining relics--the bits and pieces of long-dead saints at the heart of nearly all religious traditions--Peter Manseau delivers a book about life, and about faith and how it is sustained. The result of wide travel and the author's own deep curiosity, filled with true tales of the living and dubious legends of the dead, 'Rag and Bone' tells of a California seeker who ended up in a Jerusalem convent because of a nun's disembodied hand; a French forensics expert who travels on the metro with the rib of a saint; two young brothers who collect tickets at a Syrian mosque, studying English beside a hair from the Prophet Muhammad's beard; and many other stories, myths, and peculiar histories.With these, and an array of other digits, limbs, and bones, Manseau provides a respectful, witty, informed, inquisitive, thoughtful, and fascinating look into the 'primordial strangeness that is at the heart of belief,' and the place where the abstractions of faith meet the realities of physical objects, of rags and bones. Peter Manseau is the author of the memoir 'Vows' and the novel 'Songs for the Butcher's Daughter.' He is also the coauthor (with Jeff Sharlet) of 'Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible.' The editor of 'Search: The Magazine of Science, Religion, and Culture,' he lives with his wife and two daughters in Washington, D.C., where he teaches writing and studies religion at Georgetown University. The impulse to preserve and revere the body parts of the holy deceased has been part of the human experience since the Buddha lost his baby teeth and John the Baptist lost his head. With postmortem accounts of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad, and a crowd of other holy souls, Peter Manseau's 'Rag and Bone' tells the hidden histories of these bodies that have meant so much to so many. Along the way, we meet a California seeker of a nun's disembodied hand, a French forensics expert who rides the metro with the rib from what may have been a saint, two young Syrian brothers who study English beside a hair from the Prophet's beard, and discover many more true tales of the living and dubious legends of the dead. By examining these relics--the bits and pieces of long-dead saints found in most religious traditions--Manseau has written a tremendously moving book about life, the varieties of faith, and how both life and faith are sustained. The result of wide travel, the author's own deep curiosity, and visits with those living who take care of those dead, 'Rag and Bone' stitches together a portrait of the world's religions. And it delivers a respectful, witty, and fascinating look into the place where the abstractions of faith meet the realities of physical objects, of rags and bones. 'From Damascus to Jerusalem to Philadelphia (oddly, one of the relic capitals of the world), Manseau recounts his journey to find religious objects that have captivated the faithful for centuries and his encounters with modern pilgrims along the way . Manseau's vivid recollections of each trip, combined with personal anecdotes and interesting tidbits (did you know that every Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. has a relic?), provide a fascinating look into an ancient and complex topic.'--M. J. Stephey, 'Time' 'From Damascus to Jerusalem to Philadelphia (oddly, one of the relic capitals of the world), Manseau recounts his journey to find religious objects that have captivated the faithful for centuries and his encounters with modern pilgrims along the way . Manseau's vivid recollections of each trip, combined with personal anecdotes and interesting tidbits (did you know that every Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. has a relic?), provide a fascinating look into an ancient and complex topic.'--M. J. Stephey, 'Time' 'You might be confident that the risen Christ is the Messiah, but would you be more so if you could venerate a piece of his remains: his foreskin, for example? Peter Manseau's 'Rag and Bone,' a travelogue in which the author details his search for body parts of the holy deceased, tackles the curious relationship between faith and the physical evidence relics offer. 'A relic concentrates the beliefs surrounding it until they can be seen . like shining sunlight through a magnifying glass, ' Manseau writes of his pilgrimages to view bits of the departed, including Muhammad's whisker in Kashmir, one of the Buddha's teeth in Sri Lanka and Jesus' prepuce in Jerusalem. Of course, there's a lot of room for the word 'alleged' when scrutinizing remains over two millennia old, but aside from a chapter devoted to a researcher trying to determine whether a scorched human rib found in a French museum belonged to Joan of Arc, Manseau is less interested in the legitimacy of relics than in how people use them to support belief. Christianity, Islam and Buddhism thrive by convincing the uninitiated that dogma preached by long-dead figureheads is universal truth. As the author points out, what better 'portable form of sanctity' is there for evangelicals than St. Francis Xavier's toe, Lama Yeshe's leg or St. Anthony's tongue? Born to a former nun and a priest who married but refused to renounce the Church, Manseau brings the same expansive perspective on belief to 'Rag and Bone' that fueled his 2005 memoir, 'Vows'--the understanding that every leap of faith can benefit from a little push.'--Justin Moyer, 'The Washinton Post' 'Talk about a long, strange trip. Manseau journeys around the world seeking Muhammad's whiskers, Buddha's tooth (there's a Temple of the Holy Tooth in Sri Lanka) and even Jesus' foreskin--or at least the people who believe these saintly relics exist. Of course, there really is 'La Chapelle dell Reliquie' is Padua, Italy, the home to Saint Anthony's tongue. There's proper respect for believers and a nod and a wink for the others (the traveling Heart Shrine Relic van, for example, reminds him of the Scooby-Doo gang's Mystery Machine).'--Billy Heller, 'New York'' Post ' 'Because he is serious but not heavy, Peter Manseau--journalist, novelist, memoirist, teacher, student--makes an amusing traveling companion in 'Rag and Bone,' his tour of the bits and pieces of saints and saviors that we have been moved to worship . Manseau's pleasure is to roam the globe, dropping in at the basilica in Goa that houses the shriveled remains of St. Francis Xavier, or the shrine to the Buddha's tooth in Sri Lanka. But his point is that such relics, whether spurious or with provenance, are one of the ways in which humankind connects to something beyond itself . Part history, part hagiography, part travel book and part memoir, 'Rag and Bone' is an elegantly crafted tribute to the ways in which life and death connect.'--David L. Beck, 'St. Petersburg'' Times ''Let's start with this: when I was carrying this book around with me, while reading it for the purposes of this review, someone who knows me well noticed the cover--with the title, and the picture of a praying skeleton--and started laughing. 'Boy, ' he said, 'is that ever up your alley.' And it is. That's the truth about 'Rag and Bone': it is a very specific, narrowly focused sort of book, and if this is your sort of thing--poking among the religious curiosities of the world, with an eye for the mystic