Good Letters

Five Favorite Essays of 2008


Inspired by a similar tradition in David Brooks’ New York Times column (but with fewer pretensions to comprehensiveness—I am calling them favorites, not the most important or influential), here is a list of five essays or reviews that I have read, on the internet, which I think are worth printing out to read and ponder…

Ritz, Ritual, and the Evangelical Expatriate


“Still all this beauty bows my head down And it also props me up.” —Reva Williams Most of my Boston friends and I share similar religious backgrounds. To varying degrees, we each consider ourselves expatriates of a sort from mainline Evangelicalism. We were raised by parents who came into their own in the iconoclastic 1970s,…

Domestic Bliss and the Casual Observer


It’s 5:30 p.m. and I’m in my pajamas making stir-fry out of the decaying contents of my fridge while a miserably tired toddler clings to my leg and whines. I’ve suffered from inexplicable muscle cramping all day. I’m late with at least three freelance assignments. My husband is already an hour late and I’ve been…

The Joy of Waiting


Waiting is all around us, if we stop and pay attention. That’s one reason I love this time of year. We’re not used to waiting. A few days ago a Wal-Mart employee on Long Island was stampeded to death by impatient shoppers. As a child, I associated Advent with the stiff, single-sheeted Advent Calendars my…

Art’s Peremptory Love


“Writing is my one talent,” Mary Gordon once said. This came to mind as I finished Donald Hall’s memoir, Unpacking the Boxes, which I finally obtained from the library. (I was frugal long before the term recessionista emerged). The book centers on the poet’s life before he met his wife, Jane Kenyon, as well as…

Judgment and Doubt


Be sure you get tickets for two of this month’s new releases: Frost/Nixon and Doubt. Both films were adapted from celebrated stage plays by their original playwrights. Both are dramatic, intense, and powerfully acted. And you’ll find that each follows a crusader obsessed with exposing the ugly truth by wringing an admission of guilt from…



My mother is an exhibitionist. Her freedom with her body is beautiful to me, signaling a lack of vanity, a comfort with aging, a kind of joy in the healthy softness of her small frame, which bore all three of my sisters and myself and is just now beginning to show the creped swags of…

Going…and Coming


Friday, November 21, is my daughter’s feast day. Sometimes called “name days,” these celebrations—often featuring special meals, a cake, perhaps a small gift—of the memorial day of the saint for whom one is named, remain a tradition for some Catholic and Orthodox families. When the kids were younger, they welcomed feast days. Those were the…



No doubt I wasn’t the only one in America on Election Night who had this thought, but still, so resonant was the effect that it felt like a revelation all my own: with uncanny biblical equivalence, exactly 40 years had passed—not 39, not 41, or, for that matter, 25 or 200—from Martin Luther King’s “I’ve…

Felling the White Fir


Guest Blogger I live in a pretty college town in a lush, green valley, in a state famous for its forests and magnificent coastline. The timber industry has held sway here since the late 1800s. Forestry has its own college at the university, and it’s not uncommon to wait at a traffic light behind a…

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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