The Dishonorable Poor: “Harakiri”

It's 1630. A desperate, aging ronin arrives at the gates of a big estate and asks permission to commit harakiri in the courtyard. The estate's counselor lets him in and tells him a story: the story of the last samurai who came there, not too long ago, with the same request.This is the arresting opening to Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 Harakiri, a tense, tragic movie which includes the requisite crazy samurai fight scenes and discourses on the nature of bushido, but goes far beyond those elements … [Read more...]

“The Lost Boys”: I review Jodi Angel’s “You Only Get Letters from Jail”

at the Weekly Standard:The words “have” and “get” pulse insistently through Jodi Angel’s new short story collection. What you have to do, what you get to do, what you get away with; getting in trouble, getting used to it. Sometimes Angel even doubles up on these words: “My stomach clenched a little and I got ready to get in trouble.” That tensed, hurting readiness is one of the collection’s central moods. The other is a post-traumatic numbness which can sometimes become sentimentalized and is … [Read more...]

Stories of Atonement–Almost

On Wednesday I went with a friend to see "Atonement: Stories About Confession, Redemption and Making Amends," at the Jewish Community Center--part of their preparation for the High Holy Days. A group of storytellers from Speakeasy DC came and performed true personal tales of childhood shoplifting, hit-and-run car damage, and dishonorable Scrabble.All of the stories were interesting and for the most part well-told--but literally none of them followed the form I was most hoping for: "I sinned, … [Read more...]

“In the Hour of Chaos”: I review Charles Johnson’s short stories

at AmCon: Somebody–I hope a commenter will remind me who it was–has suggested that the Left typically thinks in terms of an opposition between oppression and liberation, whereas the right typically thinks in terms of an opposition between civilization and barbarism. I would reframe the latter opposition as order vs. chaos; if we do that, it’s obvious that both oppositions are unrelentingly relevant, yet few thinkers or artists are able to hold both conflicts before our eyes at once.I just fi … [Read more...]

“The Healing Power of Violence”: My somewhat misleadingly-titled piece

about the portrayal of penitence in Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, an intensely powerful movie: An old Buddhist monk is raising a little boy, alone together in a floating temple in the middle of a lake. The boy has the casual cruelty of most children, and the old monk catches him tying rocks to small animals to torment them: a fish, a frog, a snake. The monk says nothing, but when the boy wakes up the next morning there’s a huge stone tied to his own back. He acknowledges his guilt … [Read more...]

From “Children of Light”

"How nice Quaaludes are," she said. "The world is possible with art." … [Read more...]

“So Deep a Wound”: Garrett Keizer on “Home”

not entirely my own take on things, but it will be a while before I can write up my own response to this novel with honesty and peace of mind, I think; in the meantime, this is very spoilerous, so you should read Gilead and Home and then read this! Had I an atheist friend who asked, “Can you tell me please what this religion business is all about, not as some metaphysical hypothesis or historical phenomenon, but what it really means to be religious?” I might hand him or her a copy of Marilynne R … [Read more...]


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