Non-believers generally fall on a spectrum from militant to utterly disinterested, but some, like New Yorker Oliver Broudy, truly care about religious faith. To their immense credit, they tend to be actively curious listeners with an overt willingness to suspend disbelief and approach the faithful with the peace offering of an open mind, in an attempt to understand better how the other half lives.
Broudy is fast becoming the essayist of record for such generous atheism. In the past eighteen months, his Kindle Singles have explored this theme through the lenses of three unique narratives, building a cohesive body of work that portends Broudy's emerging mastery of the long-form, high-stakes, nonfiction narrative.
The Saint (also available in Spanish as El Santo) profiles James Otis--a wealthy Gandhi devotee and collector of Mahatma-related memorabilia--a seemingly routine journalism gig that takes Broudy halfway around the world and through a whiplashing gauntlet of emotional crests and troughs. Forced to play friend, protector, fixer, PR agent, and a host of other duties on Otis's behalf, Broudy weathers lies, danger, and difficult self-discovery, emerging from his Gotham ennui with a tale that succeeds as profile, travelogue, and tale of true adventure.
On its surface, The Codex is a coyly unfolding narrative of Broudy's trip to Prague in pursuit of the meaning of a strange book, "a book so explicit that it would be banned by any public library, a book whose pages chronicled the extinction of mystery, and at the same time spawned new mysteries just by existing." Featuring an outspoken cosmetic surgeon--a mysterious artist of the female form who may provide the key to Broudy's own mixed feeling about adulthood--it employs gorgeous prose, a keen succession of nested structures, and a parade of scalping insights into modern life.