Novels of the Great Recession

For a long time, critics were in the habit of complaining that American authors had given up trying to write the Great American Novel. That is, they’d stopped trying to create plots and characters that embodied social trends with wide-ranging significance. In Balsamic Dreams, Joe Queenan writes: “Baby Boomer literati absolutely refused to go for [Read More...]

How to Really Give a Good Sermon

This week, via video, an America Magazine commentator plugs Fr. Roy Shelly’s formula for a good sermon. It should take up no more than eight minutes, and have a point condensable to a single sentence on an index card. I’m sure there’s plenty of merit in that, but still the idea tends to put my [Read More...]

“If it Weren’t for You Meddling Kids”: Why Some Hate the Hikers

Something there is that doesn’t love a hiker. Specifically, there seems to be something about the Americans imprisoned for espionage after straying into Iran during a 2009 hike through Iraqi Kurdistan that really sets people’s teeth on edge. Karen Leigh reports in the Atlantic, “hatred has gone viral on the internet” since the news leaked [Read More...]

Georgetown: Conversions Down

We’re not hitting our numbers. That’s the gist of the latest report from Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. Numbers of non-infant entries into the Catholic Church have nosedived from a high of 172,581 in 2000 to 111,918 in 2010. Interestingly, there’s no obvious correlation between the decline and the clerical sex abuse [Read More...]

In Defense of Bloomberg

With no clergy officiating, New York City’s 9/11 anniversary ceremony is going to leave many people feeling deeply dissatisfied. And those people will have a point. When mourning the dead, it’s natural to call on professionals — people who speak to and about God for a living. This is particularly true when the lives of [Read More...]

Happy Strangers’ Day

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast has declared today, August 24th, to be Strangers’ Day. The idea, as you can see below from the cards she’s created, is to tell complete strangers how little they mean to you: I myself have improvised a few couplets on that subject: We both breathe air; we both have navels. [Read More...]

Messy Eaters, Unite!

Can you not stand the smell of lamb vindaloo coming from the next cubicle? Does the sight of a masticating neighbor chafe your eyes and ruin your mental feng shui? According to the Wall Street Journal, you’re not alone. In fact, you and your more fastidious colleagues may even be able to form — and [Read More...]

The Joys of Energy Self-Sufficency

This week in America Magazine, Thomas A. Massaro calls on his fellow American to lay down their car keys and get in line for a Metro Card. He concludes: I hesitate to recommend breaking entirely with the automobile. But to avoid the folly of getting stuck in unsustainable patterns of living, we must face up [Read More...]

For the Love of Living Latin

Here’s a perfect gift for the Latin scholar in your life: a whole summer resurrecting the dead language of the Caesars in the very shadow of the Colosseum. Today in Slate, Ted Scheinman reviews the Padeia Institute’s Living Latin — an eight-week “immersive” program in spoken Latin run out of Rome’s St. John’s University. As [Read More...]

Wanted: World Youth Day for Introverts

It’s hard to imagine Flannery O’Connor at World Youth Day. As a child, she marked the jacket of her journal with the warning “MIND YOUR OWN BIDINIS.” As an adult, she thrived in places like Yaddo and Andalusia, where people, by and large, did exactly that. Of the crowds on the New York City subways, [Read More...]

Ralph Branca: Remembering Jerusalem

The athlete whose career seems in retrospect to have been defined by an instance of decisive failure can be forgiven for imagining himself accursed, particularly if the failure itself looks wildly anomalous. When the Red Sox’s Mike Torrez gave up a pennant-winning homer to Bucky Dent — normally one of the most harmless batters in [Read More...]

Rick Perry and the Politics of Treating ‘em Ugly

Even conservatives are coming down on brand-new presidential candidate Rick Perry for accusing Ben Bernanke of treason and declaring that Texans would treat the Federal Reserve chairman “pretty ugly.” “That is not…a presidential statement,” Karl Rove told Fox News. In Tuesday’s column, Ross Douthat called Perry “the conservative id made flesh.” It’s a brilliant turn [Read More...]

A Thundering Squadron of Cassocks

This title barely qualifies as a pun. Cassock, the name for the clerical garment with the 33 buttons, may share an etymological root with cossack, the name for the Ukrainian horse-soldiers who took a famously unsportsmanlike approach to warfare. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, cassock comes from the French casaque, meaning long, coat. Casaque, [Read More...]

Who Wouldn’t Want a Hapsburg?

Ib First Things, George Weigel calls Otto von Hapsburg, son of Austria-Hungary’s last emperor, who died at the age of 98 this past July 4th, “The First– and Last European.” I have a feeling Hapsburg’s cousin, Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon-Dos Sicilias, who continues to reign in Spain — I think she’s got it! [Read More...]

The Importance of Being Snooki

“A comedy of bad manners” — that’s how the Roundabout Theater Company describes this mashup of the Importance of Being Earnest and Jersey Shore. Santino Fontana and David Furr, who play Algernon and Jack in Roundabout’s production of Wilde’s last, best play, stay in character as they recite some of the reality show cast’s most [Read More...]

For the Love of Bad Music

Jani Lane, former lead singer of Warrant, who died yesterday at age 47 of unknown causes, often expressed regret for writing “Cherry Pie.” He needn’t have. It was as catchy as it was mindless, which is probably why it made the top 10. It came out the year I went to college, and I can [Read More...]


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