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Church isn’t really about God

The nave of Salisbury Cathedral. Getty Images

For the first time in 69 years, the Queen did not speak at the Church of England’s annual General Synod, says Matthew Parris in The Times. There was something melancholy about her absence, and about the Archbishop of York’s concession that the Church is dying. His speech, like a foghorn in an advancing fog, only reinforced the shudder. “Let our death be a grand operatic death,” he said. “Let it be something fantastic. Let’s not crawl into a corner.”

But the Church still has life left to live, if only it would remember why we love it. It has never really been about God. I don’t believe in heaven, yet dutifully say my prayers, not because anyone is listening, but because I always have. Cathedrals fill me with wonder. The inscription on a child’s gravestone near my home – “Touch’d the Earth and gone to Glory” – brings tears to my eyes. I believe Jesus lived and was a wonderful man, “albeit under a serious misapprehension about paternity”. There are millions like me. The Church should gently keep faith with its flock instead of raging against the dying of the light, as the Archbishop of Canterbury is so determined to do – “reaching out” to the younger generation, joining the virtual world, all most likely in vain.

Where have all the male writers gone?

A “penis with a thesaurus”? John Updike in 1986. Ulf Andersen/Getty Images

The shortlist for the Costa book awards was announced this week, and not a single male author has made the cut for novel of the year. That’s certainly a change from older, male-dominated, bookish times, says Robbie Millen in The Times, back when “chest-thumping silverbacks ruled the literary jungle”. In the UK we had Martin Amis, Julian Barnes and Ian McEwan. Across the pond were Philip Roth, Saul Bellow and John Updike (memorably described by David Foster Wallace as a “penis with a thesaurus”). Women needed their own space, which is why the Women’s Prize for fiction was founded in 1996.

So should we now introduce a Men’s Prize to redress the balance? After all, “who knows what new highs and lows of creativity male writers might get up to if they were unshackled from the female gaze”? If we did, Patricia Lockwood wouldn’t make much of it. In 2018 the American author described an unmoderated Updike as writing like an angel, “except when he was writing like a malfunctioning sex robot attempting to administer cunnilingus to his typewriter”. “OK, maybe a Men’s Prize isn’t such a good idea…”

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