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Good Letters

Beauty Will Save The World


In Washington, DC’s Forgotten Quadrant the L’Enfant Plaza canyon brims with shapeless bureaucratic hives. It is a zone where plants die, words recycle, and paper-bloated cubes shiver like snowglobes when commuter trains pass. On a bad day, the red tape flows freely and fed lifers nap miserably. On a good day, your tax dollars are…

At the Crossroads: Science, Art, & Faith


Given my abysmal expectations for coverage of religious matters in the mainstream news industry, it was a pleasure to read–both online and in my local newspaper!–about the 2008 Templeton Prize recipient: Polish physicist, cosmologist, philosopher and Catholic priest, Michael Heller While the story is clearly a plus for those laboring at the intersection of science…

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,…

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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