Good Letters

Performing Art


I’m told music, dance and theater are performing arts, distinguished from “plastic arts” in that the medium of expression is the (frequently augmented) human body moving in time, the realization inseparable from interpretation. While such distinctions continue to die the death of a thousand qualifications, I can’t help but wonder at what point the categories…

Cheaper, Greener…More Chic


Growing up, thriftiness was next to godliness. My sisters and I were never in want, but our eternal case of low-grade covetousness was stoked by an odd egotism: we were too good to eat out, shop anywhere but secondhand, or upgrade from a muffler-less Aerostar to something that didn’t belch smoke. We were too good…

The Fall of Declinism


Is everything going to hell in a handbasket? Down the tubes? Into the crapper? Or is life getting better every day in every way? Do you believe in progress or regress? What, exactly, does your handbasket look like? The older I get the more interested I am in people’s convictions about the directionality of culture.…

Do Dictators Have Anything to Fear from Musicians?


Last December, I wrote a speculative piece for First Things Online, regarding the upcoming visit of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra to the People’s Republic of North Korea. I was responding to a Wall Street Journal op-ed by the critic Terry Teachout, who thought that such a visit would constitute a serenade for Kim Jong-Il,…

The Evil That Men Do


Among oxymorons in common usage, one of the most popular is “victimless crime.” It would seem that if an act is criminal in nature, it must have a victim. If there is no victim, then the act cannot be a crime in any real sense. When the phrase is used, a larger point is being…

Love in the Ruins II – Why Does God Permit Suffering?


For most of the week it has been raining. On Pascha we raised our candles—Christos Anesti! Christ is Risen!—and ate our lamb, sprawled out with friends drinking wine and eating sweet spicy tsoureki bread for hours, and fell early and exhausted into bed, the rain still thudding outside. Rain has been falling slantways against the…

A Gadfly in Gilead


Just when we thought that the saga of Jeremiah Wright was largely behind us, here it is again front and center with an appearance by the widely reviled pastor at The National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The day after John McCain breaks his silence on the matter and says remarks by Barack Obama’s former…

Garden Verse


Springtime seems appropriate for considering poems about the Garden. I mean the Garden, the biblical one. Adam and Eve’s encounters there continue to fascinate poets, right up to Richard Jones’s “Adam Praises Eve” in the current issue of Image (#57). In Jones’s poem, what Adam is praising Eve for is her physical loveliness. “She is…

Honest Regrets


“I always believed it was the things you don’t choose that make you who you are: your city, your neighborhood, your family.” Patrick Kenzie, the main character in Dennis Lehane’s Boston-based detective series, forms this observation in the opening credits of the latest film to be made of the novels, Gone Baby Gone (the first…

The Mystery of the Passion of Ray Kurzweil


After reading his much blogged-about interview in Wired, I would first like to express my admiration for Ray Kurzweil, both for the scope of his ambition and the depth of his desire. While some distract themselves with empty consolations or pseudo-poetic dithering, Kurzweil points out what all of us really want. In contemporary culture, I…

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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 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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