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Further Thoughts on Paul Scofield

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All will be judged. Master of nuance and scruple, Pray for me and for all writers, living or dead: Because there are many whose works Are in better taste than their lives, because there is no end To the vanity of our calling, make intercession For the treason of all clerks.” —W. H. Auden, “At…

Truth and Memory

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O my love, where are they, where are they going The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles. I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder. — From “Encounter,” by Czeslaw Milosz Recently, there has been some interesting and important discussion in this blog about the latest creative nonfiction debacle concerning“Margaret…

Waiting for Godot in New Orleans

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When a production of a classic play gets reported by Yahoo News, NPR, The New York Times, and the Seattle Times (off the AP wire), you know something powerful is going on. And so it was with the Classical Theater of Harlem’s performance of Waiting for Godot in New Orleans last November. Setting the play…

An Actor for All Seasons

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Other bloggers here at Good Letters seem to be establishing various narrative arcs—about music, fiction, etc. Well, it seems that I’m specializing in obituaries, this being my third in a row. Perhaps it’s my age, but in recent weeks I’ve felt the loss of several greats. Today I celebrate the great British actor, Paul Scofield,…

Maligned, in the Middle

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There is something wrong with the bourgeoisie, at least in American film, and there are no small or large charms that can possibly redeem the fault—discreet or otherwise. The middle class is caught in a maelstrom of pettiness, trapped in an imagined propriety, and made heir to a grubby little enterprise meant to stuff its…

The Philanthropist

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When NBC announces their prime-time schedule for the fall next month, the lineup may or may not include a show called “The Philanthropist,” on which I will be a writer if it airs. The character in question is a fortysomething Wall Street billionaire who, dissatisfied with checkbook charity, initiates his own one-man humanitarian missions from…

Ears to Hear

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Sometimes my worlds collide. I attended a concert this past weekend…a suburban orchestra conducted by a friend of mine. We hadn’t gotten together in a while and it was decided that we’d meet up after the concert for some drinks to catch up. I hadn’t realized that it was a pops concert (not my thing…

Obama, Faulkner, and the Open Wound

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“In the same spirit, on Rachel’s principles, I’d been pushed out like a blind finger, to probe a nonexistent space, a whiteboy integrating public schools which were just then being abandoned, which were becoming only rehearsals for prison. Her mistake was so beautiful, so stupid, so American.” Fortress of Solitude, Jonathan Lethem “I can no…

Beauty Will Save The World

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In Washington, DC’s Forgotten Quadrant the L’Enfant Plaza canyon brims with shapeless bureaucratic hives. It is a zone where plants die, words recycle, and paper-bloated cubes shiver like snowglobes when commuter trains pass. On a bad day, the red tape flows freely and fed lifers nap miserably. On a good day, your tax dollars are…

At the Crossroads: Science, Art, & Faith

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Given my abysmal expectations for coverage of religious matters in the mainstream news industry, it was a pleasure to read–both online and in my local newspaper!–about the 2008 Templeton Prize recipient: Polish physicist, cosmologist, philosopher and Catholic priest, Michael Heller While the story is clearly a plus for those laboring at the intersection of science…

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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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