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Good Letters

The Violent Bear It Away


It was late in the evening on Superbowl Sunday. Our son was already asleep and we were in bed, the blue light of our one small television casting a milky glow about the room. Burrowed under the covers, eyes half-closed, I reminded my husband, who goes to work in the middle of the night, that…

The Prodigal Daughter


The definition of a good memoir, like St. Paul’s famous definition of love, is perhaps better fleshed out in considering what it does not do than what it does. A good memoir, for example, does not ignore the harsh truths of the past, but neither does it delight in placing blame; it does not enlarge…

Elmore Leonard, Knight Errantry, and the Super Bowl


Robert Benchley once said that there are two kind of people in the world: Those who divide the world in two kinds of people, and those who don’t. I’m more prone to trilogies myself. The world is a set of triangles; not railroad tracks. Therefore, I start with Super Bowl XLII. As you must know,…

Turning Eli Stones into Bread


Kudos to ABC for standing by its pilot episode of Eli Stone, in which a young defense attorney, suddenly prone to visions of George Michael singing “Faith” in his home and workplace, ends up representing the plaintiff, a mother who claims the mercury-based preservative in a vaccine caused autism in her son. The American Academy…

Priest Shortage


I recently reread one of my mother’s books—Mr. Blue, by Myles Connolly, which was first published in 1928. It is a tale of a latter day St. Francis, Mr. Blue, who introduces the narrator to the joy of the Divine. Mr. Blue lives on rooftops and flies kites. On this reading, I found him fey,…

John Dillenberger, RIP


When I first contacted John Dillenberger I was not quite thirty years old and he was not quite seventy. He was a former seminary president and distinguished theologian, with nearly a dozen books to his credit. I was…a guy who wanted to start a journal. I sent off a letter to Dillenberger with a certain…

Not Going Gentle: Another Look at “There Will Be Blood”


After reading reviews for Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood, I became frustrated. The consensus about its central character, Daniel Plainview, was that he was “a great oversize monster who hates all men including therefore himself” (Roger Ebert). My problem? Watching the film, I had related to Daniel. Anderson, who compares Daniel to Dracula,…

“The Lot Marked Out for Me is My Delight” – Or Is It?


How does poetry speak for brokenness, for pained desire, for grief? A couple poems in the current issue of Image raise this question for me: B.H. Fairchild’s dramatic monologue, “Frieda Pushnik” and Robert Cording’s cycle “Four Prayers.” § Fairchild’s speaker is the “Armless, Legless Girl Wonder”—as her obituary in 2000 put it—who made her living…

Carry Me


Of late, I’ve been reading some works at the intersection of theology and the impaired body. As a physician trying to live as a Christian, that’s where I spend much of my professional time. While I treasure idealized portrayals of the human figure in classical and Italian Renaissance art, I – like you, perhaps –…

Keeping the Baby


Hollywood often says that movies reflect the culture. That’s mostly a lie, I suspect. Rather, they reflect what will sell. Or more likely, what the producer’s think will sell. Or even more likely, what the producers want to sell. I mean, how many producers perform Margaret Mead field surveys of the “culture” under some soul-bound…

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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