This slim volume collects previously published literary criticism on the novel "Morte d'Urban" and the collections of stories "Prince of Darkness" and "Presence of Grace." Since it appeared in 1968, only the New Yorker story "Keystone" and the title story of what would be in the 1975 third story collection are also covered here. Most valuable are Thomas Merton's appreciation of the novel, Sister Kirsten Molloy's interview "The Critic and Creativity" from the early 1960s, and the attack by Twin Cities bishop James Shannon in what Powers characterized as "the juicy Hibernian tone" of clerical umbrage. In fact, objective readers may find the prelate is more even-tempered in his evaluation of Powers than two other priests whose critiques also appear alongside professors with primarily New Criticism approaches than the norm for the 60s.
Among these, Naomi Lebowitz is best at her analysis of order and disorder, nature and the artificial, the Church and the human condition as dichotomies at work in the stories. Leo Hertzel also gives an insightful comparison to the Franciscan brother Juniper of the early days of the Friars Minor and how his counterparts might fare in the bureaucratic realities that Powers shows so well in his fictional rectories and chanceries and golf courses. The bulk of the critical attention follows that of most readers and reviewers and Powers himself: it concentrates upon the clerical stories in the two collections to date and the novel. (In 2002, both novels were reprinted by NY Review Press and the three volumes of a total of thirty stories had been gathered-- with no new additions-- into one volume.)
A short list of a few other studies follows the articles gathered, but no real biographical information is included. This "Christian critic series" book, edited by Fallon Evans who only contributes an extremely brief forward, is marred by some typographical errors. However, along with Hagopian's entry in the Twayne series of American author book-length studies (also reviewed by me; with a detailed bibliography and sufficient biographical information as well as close readings of the fiction to date), this anthology represents the two published contributions from 1968 that helped boost Powers in the critical realm to his postwar level of recognition as one of the finest mid-century chroniclers of the human soul at war with the body, the material, the faltering and the officious.