I Revisit Saul Bellow’s “Ravelstein,” A 2000 Novel About Love and Tenderness–And the Coming Crackup of the GOP

here you go: Ravelstein, Saul Bellow’s roman à clef about the last years of philosopher-provocateur Allan Bloom, may be the best post-9/11 novel published in the year 2000.Ravelstein has as many virtues as its subject has grabby, endearing vices. It’s a subtle portrayal of the blurred boundaries between eros, philia, paternal, and filial love. It calls attention to its own provisional nature: “I may return to this subject later,” the narrator says, but “I probably won’t.” It’s a loving portr … [Read more...]

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The Cathedral-Builders: Movie notes

In chronological order of when I saw them. The cathedrals are toward the end.Vic and Flo Saw a Bear: Formally-daring suspense flick about a lesbian returning home from prison; and yet somehow this didn't grab me. Victor Morton loved it and argues that it is, in a subtle way, about patriarchy. I can see that, and the subtlety of that is really powerful: The "main villain" is not a man, but men lurk on the edges of the narrative, wielding power. To me the film often lacked tension and I didn't … [Read more...]

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“Ecstatic Dance”: I review “The Fits,” A Stunning Film

review at First Things: Anna Rose Holmer's extraordinary new film The Fits begins with a young girl whose body obeys her will implicitly. “One,” eleven-year-old Toni (Royal Hightower) counts, as she pulls herself into a sit-up in the very center of the frame. “Two.”She works her body, grunting and gasping and twisting just a little with the effort, all the way past twenty. Then it's time to box. She spars with her older brother (Da'Sean Minor): She is a child, a disciple. She helps him clean … [Read more...]

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Cinema Paradiso? Some Things to Consider Before You Throw that Movie Reference into Your Homily

Steven Greydanus is the movie critic for Crux and the National Catholic Register, and he's also a newly-ordained deacon. (Woohoo! PARTY AT STEVE'S HOUSE) But he noted, "FWIW, I have now preached two homilies and have not used any movie references or analogies. No one believes I will keep this up.""It's actually kind of important to me that I *not* use movie references in my homilies, or at least try to avoid them as much as possible," he continued. He noted that this was a limited … [Read more...]

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HIeronymus Bosch: Hear Music Straight from the Devil’s Hindquarters

Or the hindquarters of somebody being tormented by a devil, anyway: Another mark in the “why the Internet rules” column: an Oklahoma college student named Amelia has transcribed the music written on the ass of a figure from the “Hell” panel of Hieronymus Bosch’s famous triptych painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, and posted a recording of it to her Tumblr.Listen to it here.It’s not the most mind-blowing music you’ll hear in your life, I know, but it’s still wonderful that this was d … [Read more...]

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From Saul Bellow, “Ravelstein”

Obviously, my purpose in mentioning the Crillon's valet service was to comfort Abe for spilling the Flore's strongest coffee on his brand-new jacket. But Abe didn't want me to console him for being what he was. He would have thought better of me for laughing at his sputtering reckless slobbering, his gauche eager tremors. He liked broad comedy, old vaudeville routines, wounding remarks, brashness, and raw fun. So he didn't think well of my weak, liberal, let's-make-it-all-better motive--my … [Read more...]

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I Don’t Believe in Modern Love (But I Do Love “Modern Manners”)

Recently revisited Modern Manners: An Etiquette Guide for Rude People, my favorite PJ O'Rourke. I think what makes it work is the mix of elements. It's mostly corny humor, like the extended segment on food fights ("Use a raw oyster to show someone what a French kiss would be like if she'd married a reptile"). There's also a lot of witticism: a lot of peppy, preppy cynicism. But mixed into all that there is just enough genuine insight (the bit about how modern people have replaced love with … [Read more...]

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