Flashman and the Wardrobe

Mallory Ortberg’s Ayn Rand’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe is a few months old, but today it happened to be making the rounds on my Facebook newsfeed. It’s evergreen anyway, and it recalled to mind a C.S. Lewis fanfic project I’ve been wanting to undertake for years. In The Flashman Papers, George MacDonald Fraser borrowed Flashman, the antagonist from the Victorian classic Tom Brown’s School Days, and wrote for him a glamorous career as a soldier, spy, empire-builder,… Read more

The Gladsome Easter Morn

I spent my first Holy Saturday helping my friend Rick move. I had offered my services partly out of brotherly feeling, but also partly – like Wellington’s soldiers – for the promise of drink. By the time we’d unloaded the rented U-Haul van for the third time, I was sure I’d earned it. Since before I’d met him, Rick had been living in a two-bedroom condo facing Papago Park. The co-owner of a successful telemarketing operation, he had trained himself… Read more

Was I There When They Crucified My Lord? Well…

Six weeks after my first marathon, I ran a second. By then, I’d upgraded my electrolyte drink and taken to eating bananas by the bunch in order to preclude muscle cramping. I also devised a strategy meant to reverse the events of the first race. In the name of husbanding all the glucose, glycogen, and fatty acids that I’d loaded so lovingly into my body the previous afternoon at the Chinese buffet, I planned to start off at a near-crawl,… Read more

St. Joseph: Patron of Crawlers and Scramblers

Several years ago, St. Joseph found me a job. I still haven’t thanked him properly. In a way, the job it allowed me to quit was right up his alley, since it was related to real-estate sales. Representing the bank, I would call borrowers who were on the verge of letting their homes go into foreclosure. My task, to put it as bluntly as possible, was to cajole or frighten them into selling their homes on their own. Property values… Read more

Lent for the Reluctant Ascetic

I grew up in the days before Velcro. By persisting to the age of five or six in not knowing how to tie my shoes, I drove my mother to desperate measures. One morning, she snatched the bowl of Life cereal out of my greedy little hands and informed me that I would not be getting breakfast until I learned to tie my shoes once and for all. O reader, how I wish I could report to you that I… Read more

How to Lose A Marathon

I spent roughly the first 15 miles of Phoenix’s PF Chang’s Rock and Roll Marathon eavesdropping on – you should excuse the pun – a running monologue. A young woman was recounting her life story for her companion, a young man whose acquaintance she’d apparently made not long after the starting gun had gone off. And what a life story it was! Deciding out of the blue to take up running, she’d quickly mastered the discipline. Next, she’d taught herself… Read more

In Defense of “Sob-Signaling”

Spectator columnist Julie Burchill is ordering her readers: “Please spare us the sob signaling over David Bowie.” Burchill never explicitly states what people are trying to signal with their sobbing, but she seems to despise it generally because it’s memelike, which is to say lemming-like, and expresses – or affects – an emotion out of all reasonable proportion to its object. She despises it particularly in writers because it affords them yet another chance to take money in exchange for… Read more

Farewell to Miss Florence King (1936-2016)

The late Gore Vidal began his last set of memoirs: “As I move – I hope gracefully – to the door marked Exit…” Florence King, who died on January 6, one day after her 80th birthday, can justly claim credit for a graceful exit. The great humorist and cultural critic worked almost to the very end, publishing in The American Spectator, The American Conservative, and The National Review – venues whose regular readers knew her well, and whose younger contributors… Read more

Is It Time for A Moral Panic over Pornography?

This past November, the Bishops’ Conference published a pastoral response to pornography titled “Create in Me A Clean Heart.” The document reviews the entire “structure of sin,” from masturbation to human trafficking, for which porn forms the foundation. Though the drafters maintain a measured tone throughout and end with a hopeful prayer in the form of an excerpt from Psalm 51, it is pretty grim stuff, and I think we should take it as a cue for a righteous collective… Read more

Girls at the Altar: Decompressing A Condensed Symbol

Yesterday, Michelle Arnold, a Patheos colleague, wrote in defense of altar service by girls and women. She reminds us that its history extends all the way back to the antebellum South and culminated in an endorsement from St. John Paul II, the same pope responsible for restricting the sacramental priesthood to men. What prodded Michelle into the lists was an essay by Rachel Lu making the case against. Having read them both, point and counterpoint, I’d like to offer a… Read more