Good Letters

Three Debut Story Collections Pierce the Fog of God


Samuel Martin’s powerful review-essay in the current issue of Image (#99), “Piercing the Fog of God,” pulls me into areas of my Christian faith where I’d rather not go. Drawing on the short stories in three debut collections by contemporary writers, Kirstin Valdez Quade, Chanelle Benz, and Melissa Kuipers, Martin explores what Christian sacrifice, damnation,…

The Heavy Levity of Chagall’s Suprised Lovers


A decade ago, my wife and I took the Amtrak from D.C. to New York to celebrate our first wedding anniversary with a visit to MoMA. It had been a hard year. The economy had crashed. The magazine we worked for had folded and with it the future we’d imagined for ourselves. Unable to make…

Poetry Friday: “I Stand and Knock”


What pulls me into this poem is the way we’re drawn into a cosmic drama which is, finally, salvific. The title, combined with the very first lines, brings to mind Matt. 7:7, “knock and the door will be opened to you” and Rev. 3:20, “behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Holding these lines…

Publishing, Marie Kondo, and the 30 Books Only ‘Crisis’


Three weeks into 2019, I haven’t even managed to see the trailer for the new Tidying Up With Marie Kondo show on Netflix, much less watch the thing. That’s not the case for most Americans, I gather—at least those with high-speed internet connections, who apparently gulped down the eight-episode series with vigor. And the series had barely…

A Lot to Lose: The Privilege of Tidying Up


Full Disclosure:  If I wasn’t a Christian, organization would probably be my religion, and I’d spend the high holy days at the Container Store—honoring (not purchasing) the holy vessels. Nonetheless, when I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a little over two years ago, I found that her method went far…

Poetry Friday: “Leeks”


Richard Spilman’s poem “Leeks” also sits with surprise after expectation, with renewal after a long hibernation of disappointment.

Mary Oliver: The Gift of the Word Despair


“Tell me of despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” I was in college when I first encountered Mary Oliver. It was in a daily email sent out by one of my philosophy professors. I don’t remember what we had been talking about; maybe we were reading Plato, or Parker Palmer, who said once…

What We Do with the Wreckage: An Interview with Flannery O’Connor Award Winner Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum


The stories in Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum’s Flannery O’Connor Award-winning collection, What We Do With the Wreckage, are about what happens when life doesn’t look like it was supposed to, when all we’ve been working toward suddenly seems meaningless or broken. And yet they aren’t nihilistic. Lunstrum lets the personal disasters linger in the background while her characters…

Unseen: The White Gaze at the National Portrait Gallery


Image from the National Archives Without the bodies hanging from the trees, it’s the onlookers that come into focus. A recent exhibit at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, “UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light,” examines the lack and misrepresentation of people of color in American portraiture and historical artwork. But for a portion…

Poetry Friday: “Shoemaker in Fallujah”


The shoemaker follows human life by means of the specific experiences that feet lead us through.

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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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