Good Letters

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…

Of Kings and Kong


Universal City was on fire. OK, to use more literal terms, a section of the 230-acre back lot at NBC Universal Studios was on fire, but I like the first version for its metaphoric as well as prophetic import. After all, the place is actually named Universal City. And on a recent Sunday morning in…

A Glass Darkly


We’re all astronauts, encapsulated voyagers peering out through windshields at the vast, perilous universe beyond. From these places inside our heads, we steer our ships, sending out probes as necessary. The command center seems far away from the engines and manifolds, a mind/body dissociation that’s long been a philosophical quandary—the proverbial “ghost in the machine.”…

Hunger for the World


Patricia Hampl notes that successful memoir evidences a “hunger for the world,” yearning which “expands beyond its subject…into the endless and tragic recollection that is history.” Not long before her recent, untimely death, the memoirist Nuala O’Faolain referred to this hunger in an interview published in Ireland’s The Independent. Devastated by a terminal cancer diagnosis…

Why Battlestar Galactica is So Frakking Great


One of the perils of editing a journal of high culture (and publicly lamenting the dumbing down of the culture generally) is that people assume I’m an art snob. Few seem willing to say this directly to my face, but a couple of the more candid folks out there have told me they imagine me…

The Greatest of These


Any project done in collaboration with twenty-one people is almost certain to be abysmal. Joint efforts are hard to manage, unless they’re in name only: a de facto leader and a troop of “partners” who can be told to shut up and get to it. Purpose, focus, execution—all rebel at too much participation, making “consensus…

Good Letters


Jessica Mesman

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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 week gifted writers offer personal essays that make fresh connections between the world of faith and the world of art. We also publish interviews with artists who inspire and challenge us.

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