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Good Letters

Self Portrait

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Every Thursday afternoon for several months in 1966, my mother dressed me in a white dress with a big bow and puffy short sleeves, a Peter Pan collar and blue smocking, and drove me into the Haight-Ashbury. I wore socks that folded down and black patent-leather Mary Janes. My mother had pulled my hair straight…

A Southern-Fried Family Feud

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I tried to write about Shotgun Stories without mentioning you-know-who. It’s become such a cliché. A talented new artist captures a sense of the sacred and the profane in the American South, and before you can say “Christ-haunted” or “Southern Gothic,” there she is! It’s almost as if the standard-bearer of the genre created the…

Latter-Day Prophet

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Jeremiah Rose. I wish I could give him a pseudonym, but no other name can properly conjure his image: skinny, six feet tall; a thick beard and ponytail, and pale, roving eyes like holes cut in a mask. He wears casteless ripped jeans and T-shirts, but his backpack, with a hardhat clipped and dangling from…

Story vs. Plot: Good and Bad Reasons to Read a Novel

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There’s never a good reason to do a bad thing, but it’s possible, and regrettable, to do a good thing for a bad reason. Reading a novel (a good thing) for sociological content, for moral or ethical norms, or even simply for the jokes or titillating parts is a little bit like only eating the…

A New Year of Fasts and Feasts

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Last Tuesday night, there was no dinner in the house, but at the bottom of the refrigerator drawer was a bag of middling-sized potatoes that I had bought at the local farmers market, and which, if I waited any longer, would sprout. After considering for a moment, I went to work. I rinsed and scrubbed…

The Leaden-Eyed

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I grew up in a home with a map of Narnia on one living room wall and a map of Middle Earth on the wall facing it. As a child, I knew the difference between a nymph and a satyr, between a centaur and a faun. I knew Gollum and goblins and orcs and Aslan.…

From Holiness to…Health

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“People who lived on the dark side…thanked God for their dark past, because it had deepened their soul, made a larger place for the love of God with which they were now on fire….” —from Circling My Mother, by Mary Gordon I read Brideshead Revisited for the first time recently and loved it. I also…

On Going to the Museum with My Goddaughter

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Last week, I took my nine-year-old goddaughter to the de Young museum to see the museum’s current headliner: glass artist Dale Chihuly. For weeks, visitors have been lining up to see the candy-colored creations: giant balls in a boat; long thin tapers of lavender glass; dribbly chandeliers; fantastic disks resembling umbrellas or the undersides of…

Beltway Believers

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My housemates and I have been getting our nightly fix of the Democratic and Republican conventions via old-school radio. As we cook, read and tend children, proclamations echo through our cavernous old house like the din of some semi-distant calamity. The weather has been unseasonably cool here in Washington, DC, and all of our house’s…

Verisimilitude, Satisfaction, and Pleasure; Or, What I Look For In A Novel

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An early scene in Ingmar Bergman’s film Through A Glass Darkly places Bergman’s brooding protagonist, the post-suicidal, proud old novelist David, hunched over the galley proofs of his latest novel, slowly adding adjectives with a heavy pen. When I first saw that scene, my thoughts turned to genre: is Bergman trying to kill the novel?…

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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