Good Letters

Risking the Heart


The following was delivered at the Image Seminar in Charleston, SC, on November 6, 2010. The theme of the event, which featured novelist Bret Lott, was “Risking the Heart: Telling True Stories in an Age of Irony.” Confessionals have always fascinated me: the photo-booth dimensions, the heavy red drapes or wooden doors; the imagined intimacy…

Autumn Light


Now that the time change has taken place, the season of fall has finally settled in, and buckled down. The weeks are barreling past now, downhill, bearing their inevitable way toward Thanksgiving and the grey months of winter. Here in Washington, DC, the tourists are gone and the ducks have flown away. More than anything…

First Frost


I’ve never liked the fall. Beautiful as it is, it’s too nostalgic for me, too fraught with endings, reminiscences, and bittersweet goodbyes. The only unequivocal joy about the season is football, and that’s not enough to make me change my mind. Because fall means winter is coming, and I can’t stand the cold. So spring…

The Embarrassed Samaritan


No doubt it was one of the more truly mortifying episodes I have ever experienced. Right up there with the time my freshman year in college when, alone at a table in the quiet library, I thought I had successfully suppressed a particularly insistent bout of dorm-food gas; but so strained was the effort that…

Reading Together


Reading, as a means of entertainment, is gloriously and tragically solitary. Think about it. Watching a television show or a movie or a ball game is often done with others, preferably with snacks. Maybe your friends meet up each week to cheer their favorite contestant on Top Chef. Or you catch the new Indiana Jones…

Throwing the First Stone


Early in director John Curran’s film Stone, parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert DeNiro) sits behind his desk and listens to longtime prisoner Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Edward Norton) plead for parole. The corn-rowed Stone, doing time for a crime that caused his grandparents’ death, dares to tell Jack, “I’m clean as you.” “Maybe, maybe not,” growls…

Impossible Soul


The recorded version of “Seven Swans” on Sufjan Stevens’ album of the same name always seemed a bit too subdued for the apocalyptic revelation it presents. Stevens opened his recent show at the beautiful Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver, BC (and all the shows on his recent tour) with that song, alone, spotlighted, scraping timidly at…

We Collect Words


We’re in the six-month slump. I remember it well from the first baby. The euphoria wanes, the hormones settle, and the delightful newborn grows into an impatient dictator, waking ten times a night to nurse, ready to move and play but unable to do so unassisted, unhappy unless making direct eye contact with another human.…

Our Lady’s Football Team


Every Saturday morning in fall I wake up and feel a tinge of disappointment that I have not woken up in a dorm room in South Bend, Indiana; that my Notre Dame marching band uniform does not hang in the closet at the foot of my bed. I’m disappointed because I’m not eighteen, nineteen, twenty,…

Sweat of the Brow


As one of the billions who watched the Chilean miners being brought to the surface from a subterranean tomb, I listened as journalists warned of awful physical and mental breakdowns that could occur at any moment. Horrors were afoot, and teams of specialists were on hand, as they would surely be needed. But one by…

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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