Politics Magazine

Morte d'Urban

Posted on the 13 February 2015 by Erictheblue

Morte d'urban

Long ago someone, observing a man with his nose in a book laughing uproariously, said that the fellow was either crazy or reading Don Quixote. By that standard, I'm crazy, because today while reading Morte d'Urban, J.F. Powers's novel starring Father Urban, a dashing and able priest assigned to a backwater parish in central Minnesota, I laughed aloud when Urban meets by chance the lapsed daughter of a parishioner, whereupon one thing leads to another, a fair amount of Scotch is consumed, and he tries to rescue the moment by making of it a pastoral call before being outmaneuvered by the woman who, having no interest in discussing her apostasy, instead makes a pass at him:

And she got up, but then she changed her mind, and in a matter of moments, she was standing before him, before the fire, back to him, wearing nothing but her shoes.  They were high-heeled shoes.  Calf.  Golden calf.  Lovely woman.  No doubt of it.

"All right," she said, turning around.  "Try and stop me." 

"You've got me covered," he said, and took his eyes off her, and kept them off, commending himself.  It was like tearing up telephone directories, the hard part was getting started.

There's more than one thing funny about this but I think it is mainly the wildly incongruous simile blandly offered in a situation that does not usually elicit either blandness or similes.  He noticed her calf, was persuaded of her loveliness, then looked away, and that he was able to continue not looking called to mind the man who can perform the stupendous feat of tearing a phone book in half once he "gets a start."  The whole book is very funny, though the humor is not its only merit.  I read it years ago and for reasons that now mystify me didn't love it. 


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