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Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Passion Of Martin Scorsese, by Paul Elie, New York Times

What led this great American artist to make a story of missionaries in Japan his ultimate passion project? He is known for his gangster pictures; he is a grandmaster of the profane. From the beginning, he has revealed himself to be an artist of intensely Catholic preoccupations, and the poisoned arrow of religious conflict runs straight through his career. “Taxi Driver”: a Vietnam vet as a spiritual avenger, bent on cleansing the city of filth through violence. “Cape Fear”: a tattooed fundamentalist determined to exact God’s justice. “Kundun”: a young man raised to be a spiritual master, thrust up against spirit-killing communism. Even “Living in the Material World,” Scorsese’s documentary about George Harrison, takes as its theme the conflict between flesh and spirit, between Beatle and seeker.

“Silence” is a novel for our time: It locates, in the missionary past, so many of the religious matters that vex us in the postsecular present — the claims to universal truths in diverse societies, the conflict between a profession of faith and the expression of it, and the seeming silence of God while believers are drawn into violence on his behalf. As material for Scorsese, then, “Silence” is apt, and yet Scorsese’s commitment to it has been extraordinary, even by his exacting standards. To understand that commitment, I spoke with the filmmaker, with members of the cast and the production team and with others who know the novel well — trying to grasp just what kind of an act of faith this film is.

Feast In New York City, by Garbrielle Hamilton, New York Times

Home meals have their significant pleasures; your mom’s lopsided birthday cupcakes nestled in wax paper in a shoe box have immeasurable charm. But sometimes there is just nothing like patisserie, like a restaurant on a Saturday night at 8 o’clock.

I couldn’t agree more, but the glitch is that I work in a restaurant. That Saturday-night festivity at 8 o’clock in a good restaurant is a view chefs will only ever glimpse from the kitchen. Your evenings, your weekends, your birthdays, your holidays — we are working.

But a cook’s treats are plenty, and we are hardly to be pitied. My children have never sat down to a proper Thanksgiving dinner in my household, but we have an annual tradition of restaurant leftovers — capon, mash, gravy and pie — at the kitchen counter, with real silverware and long tapered candles, the day after. I find nothing dearer.

More Than Coffee: New York’s Vanishing Diner Culture, by George Blecher, New York Times

Losing New York diner culture would probably be a watershed in the city’s history. How will New Yorkers get along without these antidotes to urban loneliness?

“The coffee shop orients us here, in this city and not another,” Jeremiah Moss, of the blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, said. “If we are regulars, we become known, connected, to a network of people who remain over the span of years, even decades. In the anonymous city, these ties can be lifesavers, especially for the elderly, the poor, the marginal, but also for all of us. Without them, the city becomes evermore fragmented, disorienting and unrecognizable.”