Good Letters

The “S” Word


All my life I have had fantasies of freeing slaves. I believe I have this fantasy more than most because I was raised in Illinois—Land of Lincoln, home to the Great Emancipator—and came of age in a house with numerous Civil War books, including the ubiquitous Time-Life series of hard back, faux-leather-bound books (though they…

Jarmusch 101


One of the things I like about jazz, kid, is I don’t know what’s going to happen next. Do you?                                 —Bix Beiderbecke The name Jim Jarmusch was all I needed to see. My browse through Blockbuster Video ended there, and I carried a DVD of The Limits of Control home. I wasn’t disappointed. Jarmusch…

Knit One, Purl a Pattern


Once I asked my neighbor, the composer David Liptak, why listening to classical music can be so meditative. David offered: “when your mind is focused on following the pattern in music, other preoccupations tend to drop away.” As I expand my skills in knitting (which I’ve mused on in earlier posts such as this oneand…

I before E


Among the register of things once known, now less known, is the fundamental capacity to spell. And if it would seem that a loss so detrimental to the world of letters—in truth, to the civilized world—would raise a greater alarm, such is not the case. Never before has such degeneracy been found less worrisome, less…

This Week in Under-Known Christian-Ish Rock


Ever since I decided to stop trying to know everything about new music (I really recommend this; it’s very liberating), I’ve been able to focus on my favorite genre, which the good people of ImageUpdate recently made fun of me for: “Recording Artists Who Kinda Sound Like They Might Be Christians.” I thought I might…

Big Baptists


Yesterday morning I woke up laughing, thinking of a phrase my mother used to use but which I hadn’t heard in years, “Big Baptists.” “He was a big Baptist,” she’d say, commenting on something she’d read in the Jackson, Mississippi Clarion-Ledger, or even in The Baptist Record, the in-state newspaper of the Mississippi Baptist Convention,…

Recovering Together


My father is a sophisticated kind of guy. When I visit his house, he lines the guest bed with red satin sheets that he picked up from the dollar store. He has never been rich. But that never seems to stop him. “You’re never too poor for a little style, Red,” he tells me, setting…

A Sense of the Stakes


When I was in my twenties, my greatest regret was never having learned to play the piano, so much so that when merely walking by a piano I was overcome with a sense of anxiety and frustration. The sight of those eighty-eight keys was like catching just a glimpse of the ocean between buildings from…

Whitman at the Gettysburg


I am re-reading Shelby Foote’s massive, three-volume history of the Civil War. Foote, who played the role of courtly southern scholar and mischievous scamp on Ken Burns’ heralded PBS Civil War documentary, was one of my favorite human beings. He was erudite, witty, and—a startling claim for a historian, really—supremely soulful. He could sift through…

Heartbreaking Couscous


The French filmmaker Claude Berri made some remarkable films during his long career. He directed two of my favorites—Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring, which starred the young Emmanuelle Béart, Daniel Auteuil, and Gerard Depardieu. But he was more than just a director. He was an actor, and he served as producer on…

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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