From “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”

She was sitting on the top of her steps, bundled up in a coat, smoking a cigarette whose smell cut straight through the cold emptiness of the air."I thought you had quit smoking a long time ago," I said."I did. But sometimes you get lonely and there's no better company in the world." … [Read more...]

Other People’s Parties: I review “About Elly”

at the Federalist: It’s easy to make “About Elly” sound simple. The film (made in 2009 but newly arrived on these shores) from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who gave us 2011’s Oscar-winning divorce drama “A Separation,” is about a group of college friends who go off for a vacation by the sea. They bring along Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti), the teacher of one of the friends’ daughters, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear.When tragedy strikes, the friends must try to figure … [Read more...]

From “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”

When the train rushes above ground, we've already crossed into the outskirts of the city. The buildings, old brick factories and warehouses, are all marked with the familiar bright red and yellow bubble letters of Disco Dan. The name is everywhere, tagged onto the side of the tracks, buildings, and rusted water towers. A running billboard competing with the ads for Schlitz malt liquor and used-car lots. Disco Dan--offering nothing but himself and his vanity--has them all beat. For as long as … [Read more...]

Where Are the Lady Mountain Goats?

A cri de coeur! Where are the women who write weird, metaphor-laden personal songs about their fraught relationship with the Lord? Are there Sufjanes out there? I would really like music by women, in just about any genre, with lots of Christian stuff (they don't have to be actual believers, just people with really intense relationships with God and the Church) and not prettified but raw. Not Avengers-type stuff about anger at the Church, or anyway not only that, but about complex longings in … [Read more...]

A Clarification on My “You Don’t Have to Grok Natural Law” Shtik

(I'll take any excuse to jam both "grok" and "shtik" into the same headline.)Now and then I find myself saying that you can accept Catholic teaching on [whatever, usually about gay stuff somehow] without being persuaded by or caring much about natural law theory. E.g. in the book I say, "This book is not a theological treatise defending the Catholic Church's teaching on sexuality. I admittedly don't always understand that teaching, and I don't think you need to understand every single … [Read more...]

From Dinaw Mengestu, “The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears”

Lying on the grass on the edge of Dupont Circle, away from the shade cast by the office buildings and trees, I listen closely to the sirens. They don't fit in with the picturesque scene of office workers lunching on the grass, but there they are, faint, undoubtedly audible, and growing louder with each passing second. The couple that I followed to the circle from my store stand up and exit. As the sirens draw closer, the people lying on the grass look up from their books. Those who are strolling … [Read more...]

Benedict Option Conclusion: Places in the Heart

This is the final part of my series on Leah Libresco's discussion group on "The Benedict Option" aka living a more communal or "thicker" Christian life. Parts one, two, three, four.This is gonna be a pretty rambling conclusion loosely linked by the theme of "place." I've found it most helpful to view the discussion of "the Benedict Option" as a way of raising fruitful questions, not an attempt to provide a One Best Model. (It's about having more-Christian problems, not finding solutions--or … [Read more...]


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