Beyond the Book: Background information when reading A Better Angel

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A Better Angel

Stories

by Chris Adrian

A Better Angel by Chris Adrian
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2008, 240 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2009, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Amy Reading

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About this Book

Beyond the Book

Print Review

Chris Adrian may write about angels, but the man himself is a superhero.

He is a novelist…

He graduated with an MFA from the prestigious Iowa Writers' Workshop after completing a Bachelors degree in English at the University of Florida. Mark Sarvas, a novelist and literary critic who blogs at The Elegant Variation, remembers being an undergraduate at the University of Iowa when Adrian was a graduate student. Word would get around whenever Adrian was workshopping one of his stories, and the undergrads would sneak into the grad student office to steal the photocopies. His previous novels are Gob's Grief and The Children's Hospital, which share characters with each other though they are set in different centuries. Some of those characters recur in A Better Angel, as does the setting of Severna Lake, Maryland.

…and a pediatrician…

He got a medical degree from Eastern Virginia Medical School and worked as a pediatrician in the ER at Boston Children's Hospital, before leaving for his current stint as a pediatric hematology/oncology fellow in San Francisco. One of Adrian's recurring characters is Doctor Chandra, an insecure, inept doctor whose full name, in some of the stories, can be rearranged to spell Chris Adrian.

…and a divinity student.

He is earning a Masters in Divinity at Harvard Divinity School with plans to pursue a PhD in theology or ethics. Adrian was raised Catholic but calls himself a "lapsed atheist." On his graduate school application, he declined to label himself with a particular denomination, but has said that he leans toward Unitarian Universalist or the United Church of Christ. He gave a decidedly hipsterish sermon at the school about getting a tattoo "as a visible reminder to be a better person," which was subsequently published in the New York Times Magazine.

Need more of a Chris Adrian fix? Read his uncollected short story, "Horse and Horseman", at Zoetrope; and "Promise Breaker", one of the stories collected in A Better Angel.

This article was originally published in September 2008, and has been updated for the July 2009 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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