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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?…

Did Marla Really Paint That? Does it Matter?

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Do you buy modern art? No, I’m not asking if you purchase contemporary artwork. I’m asking: Do you buy modernism as a legitimate form of artistic expression? Or do you think those who spend a fortune on Jackson Pollock canvases have been duped? Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary My Kid Could Paint That raises that question, and…

The State of Catholic Letters, Part IV: Generations Lost…and Found

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Continued from yesterday. As I wrap up this series on the state of Catholic letters, I’d like to make a few final distinctions and then name some of the writers I think should be more widely known and discussed within the Church in North America. I’ve thrown down what I think is a friendly, if…

The State of Catholic Letters, Part III: The Whiskey Priest Meets Charming Billy

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Note: For those of you wondering when the rest of the Good Letters team will get a chance to post again, be assured: they’ll be back soon. This little series of mine is giving them a wee break (and me a chance to catch up a little on my post-count). In the last two posts…

The State of Catholic Letters, Part II: Shouts or Whispers?

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In my last post I opened up one of those proverbial cans of worms: the question of whether or not something called “Catholic fiction”—or perhaps any sort of creative writing by Catholics—is alive and well, or not. I admit it: in that post I came out swinging. One Catholic blogger thought I went too far:…

The State of Catholic Letters, Part I: Déjà vu All Over Again

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In the conservative Catholic press—and blogosphere—there has been much harrumphing about the decline and fall of Catholic letters. Of course, the question of whether Catholic writing is alive, much less well, is really just another skirmish in the larger culture wars—perpetuated largely by those with ideological axes to grind. I am not so naïve as…

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