Good Letters

A Generation of Byrons


Mark Edmundson of the University of Virginia has published a fascinating article in the latest Chronicle of Higher Education, describing the current generation of students. They are an active, intelligent, vulnerable bunch: “Its members have a spectacular hunger for life and more life. They want to study, travel, make friends, make more friends, read everything…

North and South


In Maine, people say, “If you don’t do winter, you don’t deserve summer.” But after I fell on the ice one too many times this winter, I flew south. On the plane, I read in USA Today about the recent Pew Trust U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, which noted that Northern New England and the West…

Absolution and other Poetic Blessings


Reading Rafael Campo’s new book of poems, The Enemy (Duke UP, 2007), makes me appreciate what intriguing religious poetry can come from someone outside of conventional religious practice. Campo grew up in the Catholic church and culture of his Cuban-American community, but — according to his memoir-essay in The Poetry of Healing — he left…

Equivocal Grace


When you have a well-known story about a political leader in eighteenth century England who sets out to abolish the slave trade based on his Christian convictions; and when the sub-plot involves the epiphanic conversion of the man who wrote the most influential hymn of all time, Amazing Grace; and when the screenplay of a…

Super Swarm


You were probably a better citizen than I was and watched the final Clinton/Obama debate before last Tuesday’s primaries in Ohio and Texas. I meant to, at least, and then got stuck in a Mega Disasters segment on the History Channel, entitled “Super Swarm.” Its subject? Locusts. Its object? Me. Viewers or victims, sometimes it’s…

Face to the Lite


Recently, I’ve been one of those half-witted people easily caught at her uncensored best or worst. Illness, grief, family chaos, and other calamities have descended, and they have scrambled my brain. In this time, I’ve vacillated between an appetite for things that are beautiful and things that are, well, People magazine worthy. It’s reminded me…

Resonant Silence


“Desperately Seeking Silence” is the title of an intriguing essay in the current issue of Cross Currents (Fall, 2007). The author, Brett Esaki, who identifies himself as a member of the Hip-hop generation, argues that the noise we hear in youth culture’s art forms is actually creating a meditative space of silence for those who…



For the past two weeks now, I have been mulling over my pledge for this entry to discuss three recent major novels that I liked (and in the case of two, loved), but which also illustrate the narrative laziness that seems to characterize a lot of contemporary fiction. In case you’ve been racked with curiosity,…

Our Bodies, Our Selves?


“We do know that Man, from fear or affection, has always graved His dead.” W H Auden Bodies…The Exhibition has come to Cincinnati, along with its usual train of controversy. Ever since the German anatomist, Gunther von Hagens, began marketing his plastination process for permanently preserving corpses, his work has attracted fierce criticism and equally…

That is the Question


In the final moments of the German film, The Lives of Others, the former Communist Minister of Culture, Bruno Hempf, makes a provocative speech to the playwright Georg Dreyman. (Hempf had bugged Dreyman’s apartment back during the bad old days.) “You’ve not written since the Wall fell?” Hempf asks. “That’s not good. After all our…

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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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