Good Letters

Good Art, Bad Art, Faith and Doubt


As America magazine’s June 23-30 issue pointed out, it was extraordinary to find the New Yorker’s summer fiction issue (June 9 & 16) devoted so prominently to God, including a series of short reflections collectively entitled “Faith and Doubt.” Predictably, given its fundamental skepticism about religious matters, the New Yorker wouldn’t be able to conceive…

Betraying the Story


One night during the summer of 1967, the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in the front yard of my uncle’s house in Louisiana. Like my father, my Uncle Paul was a dentist, and on the night that the cross was lit, he was not actually at home, but had gone back downtown to his…

Sleepless in the City


I can’t sleep in hotel rooms. The fluorescent lights, the vent’s false breeze, the sealed-off city behind its funeral parlor curtains—all of it triggers a feeling of body-lessness, a sense that every other pulse available to me is inhuman. Lonesome nights on work trips always end with me sprawled across a giant bed, contemplating the…

The Burthen of the Mystery


On my first night of class in doctoral school, our Literary Theory professor asked us to go around the table and introduce ourselves, including our favorite authors and our reasons for continuing our graduate studies in English. Coming from a fairly rigorous theoretical background, I began mentally to run through the answers I knew I…

Coming Out of the Prayer Closet


I wonder how long I can pull off this gig; how long I can get away with writing this blog that “outs” me spiritually while working in an industry like Hollywood that is far more hostile to Christianity than, say, apropos the metaphor, homosexuality. How long before my fellow writers on a brand new job…

Rise and Fall


It’s said that stories help clarify the stupefying succession of years we call life—so that we see it truly, live it honestly, face it nobly. Even tales of the grimmest matter are not meant as prose fugues, as lyrical anesthesia for the meek or desperate. Literature is equipment for living, said Kenneth Burke, and a…



I took a trip to Boston this past week. The youth choir from my church here in Dallas was touring the Boston area, and among them were my two teenage children. I took the opportunity to attend to some business I’d been avoiding, and to take my kids on campus visits while they were already…

(Extra) Ordinary People


This past Monday morning I kneeled down on a flagstone sidewalk to tell my four-year-old son that he was going to be just fine going in to his new summer day camp. It was his first day at this new camp clear across town: We had driven for 35 minutes past the metal-shuttered liquor stores…

Slow Reading


In the May 6 issue of Christian Century, several people in the book business (writers, editors, professors) were asked what sort of book they’d like to see written. I was struck particularly by the comments of Lil Copan, who is senior editor at Paraclete Press. Lil said that what she craves is books that will…

Why I Watch Sex and the City


So I may as well confess it here. I am a ritual watcher of sitcoms. When I am lonely, when I am hurt, when I am confused, ambivalent, frightened, insecure, I watch sitcoms. After a particularly debilitating break-up last fall, I spent a solid month watching nothing but episodes of The Office, which worked to…

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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