The Searchers: I revisit “ElfQuest”

This winter I’ve had the true pleasure of revisiting a comics series I adored in childhood, Wendy and Richard Pini’s ElfQuest. It is about elves on a quest (more than one quest! so many quests!) and although it is marked in some bad ways by its late ’70s – early ’80s origin, it is an artistic triumph and a genuine delight. It’s also, it turns out, full of themes which would continue to shape my life up through my conversion… Read more

Sisters and Survivors: Yaa Gyasi, “Homegoing”

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, Homegoing, is the uneven execution of a brilliant and haunting premise. Homegoing starts with two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, in colonial Ghana. The sisters never meet–we slowly learn the circumstances which led their mother to flee her first home for her second. One sister becomes the wife/mistress of the British governor of the Cape Coast Castle. The other sister becomes a slave, sent from the castle’s dungeon across the Middle Passage to America. Homegoing follows the… Read more

Judgment on the Orient Express

in which I take in my little review which couldn’t find a home. That’s why it’s written all professional-like: Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express opens with a slapstick religious conflict and rises to a windswept, prosecutorial climax. In between there are gunshots and stabbings, and the great detective Hercule Poirot, sans his traditional embonpoint, leaps around a train trestle in pursuit of a suspect. The setup of Express is simple. Mr. Ratchett, a shady American businessman (Johnny Depp,… Read more

Work Is a Four-Letter Word: I review “The Animators”

at First Things: It may be gauche to say that novels should be moral tales; but nothing can compete with morality for dramatic tension and structure. Kayla Rae Whitaker’s debut novel, The Animators, is a raw and propulsive book . . . right up until its fizzly, self-satisfied ending. The Animators centers on the friendship of two hot-mess women. Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses meet in art school. Mel walks around in a swirling Pigpen cloud of sleaze and chaos;… Read more

Gay Catholic Whatnot–on Russian Catholic Radio!

This is so cool! You can listen to the interview in English (here, I think?) or read it in Russian, thanks to the hard work of interviewer & translator Nikolay Syrov: Ив Ташнет — писатель из Вашингтона, открытая лесбиянка и католичка, избравшая путь посвященной Богу жизни. Она родилась в 1978 году, а в 1998 году, во время учебы в Йельском университете, стала католичкой. Её первая книга «Геи и католики» отражает её путь от либерального атеизма к жизни в вере в Католической Церкви,… Read more

She, the Jury: Some notes on “Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri”

A movie about which I have intensely mixed feelings! A lot of these thoughts were formed in conversation with Charles Lehman, for which I am grateful. # Early on, we see a guy reading Flannery O’Connor and so we can guess that this violent story will show us a world somehow mangled, misfired. And my favorite thing about the film is structural: It’s about a series of attempts to get justice which kind of ricochet off their intended targets and… Read more

“Free Choice Is a Lie”: I review Joyce Carol Oates’s new novel

for First Things: A Book of American Martyrs, Joyce Carol Oates’s novel about the shooting of an abortionist by a Christian “Soldier of God,” is perfectly unempathetic. Lately we’ve heard a lot about how important it is to feel empathy for those on the other side of various moral, political, and religious divides. Even if we abhor the beliefs of others, we are exhorted to see them as complex human beings like ourselves. Oates will have none of it. She… Read more

Counting Days

Some notes on Advent & addiction. I’ve said before that David Carr’s Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life–His Own is the best addiction memoir of the many I’ve read. So much of it rang so true to me when I read it, in late 2011, when I was locked in a terrifying and all-consuming struggle to quit drinking. The bit about how your own words ring false to yourself because you’ve heard all… Read more

Death by Stereo: Movie notes

Starting with the low point, I’m afraid. Spinning into Butter is an extremely ’90s tale of racial unrest on campus. It is just not good enough in any respect. Anybody who has followed this sort of thing will guess the shocking twist literally in the first five minutes; I assume Sarah Jessica Parker is actually a good actress but she comes across as if she’s reading words off a page here, wooden and implausible; and the film says nothing, I… Read more

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