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Clerical Errors

Clerical Errors

A Novel

  • reading group guide
Aside from his blatant lack of piety -- and the fact that he's Jewish -- Father Edmond Music could have been a model priest. Now, entrenched at an English estate with a vast library, he would rather pursue a decades-old liaison with his housekeeper than crack down on his assistant's dial-a-confession phone ministry, or, more important, investigate the whereabouts of a rare Shakespeare text gone missing on his watch.
Then, out of nowhere, penance comes due. His car is found totaled (possibly by Vatican hit men), his annoying archrival of the cloth is looking to nail him as a thief, and the once-passionate housekeeper is lapsing into religious fervor. With his forty-year idyll falling apart, Edmond can no longer ignore the danger of the present, or the echoes of his buried past.
National Jewish Book Award-winning author Alan Isler delivers a hilarious and touching literary homily, confirming his unique gift for mingling comedy and tragedy in this deeply moving exploration of faith, love, and identity.
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  • Touchstone | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780743210614 | 
  • December 2002
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Reading Group Guide

A Scribner Paperback Fiction
Reading Group Guide
Clerical Errors
From the highly acclaimed author of The Prince of West End Avenue comes Clerical Errors, a wickedly funny and genuinely moving novel about faith, love, and transgression. Despite a severe lack of piety and the inconvenient fact of his Jewish birth, Edmond Music chooses the priesthood as a career. Thanks to the generosity of a former lover, he is now entrenched at an English estate with a fabulous library, much to the Vatican's chagrin. There he plays chess with his friend W. C. Catchpole -- who lost his faith during wartime and now rails against Catholicism -- and carries on a clandestine affair with his longtime housekeeper, Maude Moriarty. He would rather immerse himself in studying an eighteenth-century Jewish mystic known as "the Pish" than contend with the growing interest in a Shakespeare folio gone missing on his watch. The arrival of his nemesis, the American priest Twombly, and Maude's religious revival force Edmond to reexamine his identity and confront his past.
Discussion Points
1. Consider the epigraph of the novel -- a poem called "The End of the World," by Archibald MacLeish, in which a lively circus is interrupted by a more imposing spectacle. How does Isler's narrative echo MacLeish's poem?
2. "Sipping a Calvados in a bar in the rue de Malengin...I discovered to my surprise that I had just died" [p. 11]. At the outset of Clerical Errors, Fath see more

About the Author

Alan Isler
Photo Credit: Jerry Bauer

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