By examining relics - the bits and pieces of long-dead saints at the heart of nearly all religious traditions - Peter Manseau delivers a book about life, and about faith and how it is sustained. The result of wide travel and the author's own deep curiosity, filled with true tales of the living and dubious legends of the dead, Rag and Bone tells of a California seeker who ended up in a Jerusalem convent because of a nun's disembodied hand; a French forensics expert who travels on the metro with the rib of a saint; two young brothers who collect tickets at a Syrian mosque, studying English beside a hair from the Prophet Muhammad's beard; and many other stories, myths, and peculiar histories. With these, and an array of other digits, limbs, and bones, Manseau provides a respectful, witty, informed, inquisitive, thoughtful, and fascinating look into the 'primordial strangeness that is at the heart of belief,' and the place where the abstractions of faith meet the realities of physical objects, of rags and bones.
Peter Manseau is the author of the memoir "Vows" and the novel "Songs for the Butcher's Daughter." He is also the coauthor (with Jeff Sharlet) of "Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible." The editor of "Search: The Magazine of Science, Religion, and Culture," he lives with his wife and two daughters in Washington, D.C., where he teaches writing and studies religion at Georgetown University.