ISBN: 978-0-9982675-7-9
Pages: 432
Publication Date: December 3, 2019

"Beguiling moral fables that illuminate the possibility of the miraculous in our time.”

-Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

The Heart Is a Full-Wild Beast

John L'Heureux spent his long, prolific career exploring questions of morality and faith in stories that entertain, surprise, and sometimes disturb. Entertain because life is short and often disappointing. Surprise because it is in those moments we are most ready to be moved or enlightened. Disturb because fiction can offer a challenge as to how we live our lives. A former Jesuit priest and longtime director of Stanford's creative writing program, L'Heureux writes with wit and elegance, passion and irony about the moments of joy, doubt, transcendence that alter the course of a life: a priest seeking laicization endures endless and absurd questioning; a torturer's assistant justifies his vocation by offering comfort to his patients; and baffled academics wonder about the point of it all. The Heart Is a Full-Wild Beast compiles the enduring stories of a distinctive American writer.


Available December 3, 2019

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John L’Heureux was born in South Hadley, Massachusetts. He spent seventeen years as a Jesuit priest, after which he worked as an editor at the Atlantic; and for more than thirty years taught American literature and creative writing at Stanford, where he was the longtime director of the writing program. His stories appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, and Harper’s. He is the author of twenty-three books, including the novels The Medici Boy and The Shrine at Altamira; and the short-story collections Desires and Comedians. He lived with his wife in northern California until his death in 2019.

More Praise

“The functions of American art, religion and philosophy are what L’Heureux is concerned about. He seems to be saying, isn’t our 20th-Century insistence on the perfectly realized, ‘realistic’ external detail just essentially and eternally boring? Wouldn’t it be better, for our art if not for our own individual lives, if we recognized other, larger grids on which to play out our dramas; wouldn’t it make sense to postulate a supernatural good, an ecstatic Absolute, and then order our own lives as if those things existed? It would be more exciting, that way, more ‘meaningful,’ more elegant.”
—Carolyn See, Los Angeles Times

“Mr. L’Heureux demonstrates his remarkable capacity for narrative invention—his ability to pack a single slender story with enough incident to fill a novel; his ability to summarize entire lives in a couple of pages… to turn the narratives into beguiling moral fables that illuminate the possibility of the miraculous in our time.”
—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“L’Heureux chronicles the modern search for God amidst the apparent randomness of everyday life with all the grace and style of the great writers of religious fiction… L’Heureux’s fiction flourishes when his characters are God-crazed and spiritually hungry.”

“L’Heureux, in a sentence, can convey enormous pain.”
—Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times

“Loose cannons are John L’Heureux’s specialty… He writes quietly, almost tenderly… about faith and about regular people.”
—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

“[L’Heureux’s] elegant, spare prose [provides] a bridge across the gulf of such treacherous subjects as God, death and man’s failure to live with integrity.”
—Linda Gray Sexton, New York Times

“John L’Heureux’s vision is eerie and unmistakably his own… These, then, are oblique, ironic moral fables, and they are written in a spare, elegant and witty prose.”

—Johanna Kaplan, New York Times

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