Good Letters

Danny Glover and the Doomed Backyard


Last week, on what felt like the last day of summer, I walked into my soon-to-be-demolished backyard. It’s a beautiful place, and the realization of its imminent demise provoked an unexpected surge of emotion. My wife Anne and I pay very low rent on a wonderful 1920s house in Shoreline, Washington, and every morning we…

Food Service


My husband Ben just started his third year of medical school: running the gauntlet of twenty-six-hour shifts, cranky surgeons, and “pimping” on the rounds—the crude term for masochistic bedside Q&A sessions. Meanwhile, back at home, the brutal schedule has required yet another consideration of how we share domestic duties. I wasn’t alive when Peggy Lee…

Lingua Franca


It’s a horrible thing to be stranded within your native tongue when no one around you shares it. The mind rages at its helplessness. In such situations, rhetorical matters are irrelevant: the niceties of tropes and figures, the arrangement of thoughts, the cadence of delivery—all useless. We can even feel as though we move among…

The Language of Change


The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. —Mark Twain in a letter to George Bainton, 1888 In the 1980s, NPR’s Morning Edition regularly included a short segment, “On Words,” featuring poet and translator, John Ciardi. In his…

Mercy Alone


“You are the universal fugitive / Escapist as we say.” —From The Masque of Mercy, by Robert Frost Some years ago, I attended a wedding reception at an elegant B&B. We danced to the light of fairy bulbs strung high in the trees. The gentle currents of a lake lapped against the lawn’s long incline.…

Appetite for Destruction


Jerusalem, I say quietly. Jerusalem. The alter of evening starting to spread its black cloth In the eastern apse of things The soul that desires to return home Desires its own destruction. We know, which never stopped anyone, The fear of it and the dread of it on every inch of earth, Though light’s still…

Self Portrait


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


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


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


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…

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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