Afterlives of the Saints: Stories from the Ends of Faith (Unbridled Books, 2012) is a thought-provoking collection of stories and meditations about the lives and deeds of saints and how those lives and deeds come to gain different meaning(s) and interpretations over time. As someone raised in a non-saint-based religion I've always been fascinated at the very idea of saints, and I was somewhat amused at the sections of Dickey's book about the early collections of saints' biographies (hagiographies) in which almost all the personal details were removed; the whole point of hagiography, Dickey writes, is that "the story is written to tell us not the facts about that person's life but rather how that person's life exemplifies the glory of God" (p. 19).Obviously not a comprehensive overview of saints, Dickey's book concentrates on a few specific ones (those Dickey describes as "the ones who have spoken most to me over the years, either because of what they wrote, because of the art and literature they inspired, or because of the wide range of beliefs they encompassed" - pg. 20). He concludes with a section on a few people who aren't saints, but might have been.Dickey considers his selected saints through in various ways: in the chapter on Mary Magdalene he compares typical imagery of the saint with a WWII-era Life photo of a woman peering at the skull of a Japanese soldier sent to her as a war trophy. From Borges to Caravaggio to Kafka, Dante to Chaucer to Van Gogh to "Blade Runner", Dickey explores how art, politics, religion, pop culture and literature have drawn on the examples of the saints in their own works.Interesting too is Dickey's suggestion that much of the extreme behavior exhibited by those now considered saints would be seen as pathological conditions today, to be treated with medication and/or psychotherapy. They lived, he writes, at the extremes of humanity, a place hard for any modern person to reach. I'd have liked a bit more in this line as a conclusion, but even without that, this was a deeply interesting read.