Good Letters

Confronting My Poverty


See how thy beggar works in Thee / By art. —George Herbert A long table was set up on the corner of Boylston just outside the main branch of the public library on the edge of Copley Square filled with cellophane bags of bread and Styrofoam plates of lunch meat, and sliced cheese. I had…

The Lost Art of Letter Writing


Letter writing, the kind with real ink and paper, has become something of a cultural anachronism, like rotary phones or washboards. Mention that you plan to spend the afternoon writing a letter, and be prepared to meet the same quick-blinking surprised faces you might receive if, pushing back from a restaurant table, you say, “Excuse…

The First Five Non-Christian Records I Ever Owned


For the last few weeks, I’ve been reading through the final pages (finally!) of my upcoming book Sects, Love, and Rock & Roll, which is a collection of essays about faith and popular music, mostly in the 1990s, and the musical twists and turns life (mine and others’) has taken since then. For the most…

Winter’s Bone: A More Human Hero


When was the last time you saw a big-screen hero kill, gut, and cook a squirrel? Be prepared for that if you see Winter’s Bone. I wasn’t. Let’s not even talk about the chainsaw, which figures prominently at the end of the film. Let’s focus on Ree Dolly, the seventeen year-old girl “bred and buttered”…

The School of Chant


When the email circulated that there would be a traditional Latin Mass at our parish for the Feast of the Assumption on August 15, I immediately and foolishly wrote back that I wanted to be in the Schola Cantorum. The extent of my Gregorian chant experience is one weekend at the Abbey of Gethsemani five…

When We Are Not Enough


I sat down today with the intention of writing about something uplifting. This morning it was cool, so I went for a long walk with my son up to the campus of the college where I teach. Along the way, we saw families of deer, the college grounds crew weed-whacking around the foundations of the…

All At Once


A week or so ago, I stood in a place that’s one of my favorites, looking out upon a view that I’ll always consider the best, and at a time of day that did the whole experience justice—though in truth, no time is a bad one to stand there. I went to this place because…

My Hometown…and Yours?


Dear Good Letters community, You know, sometimes you just have to phone it in. I’m sitting here on a hot sunny day in Jackson, Mississippi on vacation at my brother’s, and am just about to visit my hometown of Yazoo City for the first time in three years. I anticipate that there will be a…

Last Night I Was Thinking of You


It is last night, many nights and years ago, a night when I drank a glass of wine and then I cut my hair. The wine I drank from the fat bulb of a fine crystal wine glass—the finest glass we owned, one of a wedding gift pair, against which all cheap plates and plastics…

Artist, Heal Thyself


Last week, my mother told me that when I was a little kid she believed I would one day be President. We were alone in her hospital room at the Cleveland Clinic when she said this to me. She was minutes away from having surgery to remove a tumor from her brain. I didn’t know…

Image’s Daily Blog

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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