Good Letters

Lucia Berlin: A Master of Catholic Fiction, Part 2

a manual for cleaning women

Continued from yesterday. Catholic imagery appears throughout Lucia Berlin’s A Manual for Cleaning Women, the posthumous selected stories that has brought her singular fiction out of obscurity. The magnificent “El Tim,” a story about a charismatic adolescent Mexican-American boy who disrupts a Catholic school with his sly behavior, begins: “A nun stood in each classroom…

Lucia Berlin: A Master of Catholic Fiction, Part 1


In September, Lucia Berlin’s posthumous collection of selected short stories A Manual for Cleaning Women hit the New York Times Best Seller list for hardcover fiction. Vice called Lucia Berlin “the greatest American writer you’ve never heard of.” Marie Claire predicted that this “highly semiautobiographical collection will catapult [Berlin] into a household name.” And John…

Our Lady’s Football Team


Every Saturday morning in fall I wake up and feel a tinge of disappointment that I have not woken up in a dorm room in South Bend, Indiana; that my Notre Dame marching band uniform does not hang in the closet at the foot of my bed. I’m disappointed because I’m not eighteen, nineteen, twenty,…

Brush with a Famous Writer


I was walking down a concourse in the Philly airport when I looked up to see the Famous Writer staring down at me. Actually at first glance I was sure I was looking at the British actor, Bill Nighy. But it was not. It was him, a well-known literary writer who had moved to Maine…

Life-Saving Moments of Art

Drawing of a nesting hen

In August, the musical duo Alright Alright, composed of husband and wife Seth and China Kent, performed in our living room for their last house concert in a series of a dozen across the country. As the musicians (described as “piano-based folk Americana with a healthy measure of art-song/cabaret”) set up their lighting and cigar-box…

Tale of the Lucky and the Star-Crossed

Lady Awaiting Inspiration

They say that luck is where hard work meets opportunity. But often the ones who say that are those who are the greatest beneficiaries of luck. It seems a way by which the fortunate can reclaim a portion of the credit for the things that have befallen them: “Yes, X happened, and it was indeed…

Dr. Seuss and Dietrich Bonhoeffer


I am reading a biography of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was hanged in 1945 for his role in the plot to kill Hitler. Suddenly the door opens and my two-year-old grandson, Alex, bounces in. Seeing the book, he attempts to climb into my lap so I can read to him as well. I put…

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 2: Beauty and Sacrament


Continued from yesterday. In this scene from Batman’s first meeting with Wonder Woman in Trinity, you can feel the writer Matt Wagner’s personality trumping the artist; though it doesn’t really add much to the narrative, Wagner can’t help but let Bats make a crack about her costume. Superheroines’ costumes are perpetually controversial, it seems (perhaps…

Wonder Woman, Flying, Part 1: Transcendent Hope


It’s one of my favorite images of Diana of Themyscira, a.k.a. Wonder Woman: her proud, bold body fills the page as she soars across a pink sunset, arms spread wide like a diver, her legs not straight but slightly askew as if skipping on the air. As someone who never had much use for comics,…

Beauty Will Save the Seventh Grade


The school administrator wants to know when my students will experience beauty in my classroom. He asks this question while going over our teaching contracts. A copy of what I signed back in April is magnified on a screen in Covenant Hall, a giant room that serves as a cafeteria and also a chapel. Last…

Image’s Daily Blog

For the humanists of the Renaissance, literature mattered because it was concrete and experiential—it grounded ideas in people’s lives. Their name for this kind of writing was bonae litterae, a phrase we’ve borrowed as the title for our blog. Every weekday, one of the gifted writers on our blogging team will offer a personal essay that makes a fresh connection between the world of faith and the world of daily life, spanning the gap between theology and experience and giving language a human shape.


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