“Piety and Hunger”: Nice intro essay on “Kristin Lavransdatter”

why not start your journey w/Kristin during Lent? Undset was an obsessive researcher, and her 14th-century Norway has texture down to the dirt of the smithy floor. She captures annual agricultural rhythms of shortage and plenty, obscure ecclesiastical laws governing punishments for adultery, and the way the men douse themselves in ice water to sober up for church after Christmas festivities. Her descriptions of food, decor, and clothing are precise: the way Kristin strews juniper and flowers on … [Read more...]

The Viscerally Satisfying “Get Out”: My review

for America magazine: Rarely have I seen a movie audience as viscerally satisfied as the audience with whom I saw “Get Out,” the new horror-comedy written and directed by Jordan Peele of the comedy duo Key and Peele. I saw “Get Out” in a downtown D.C. theater on a Saturday night, amongst a big and mostly black crowd, drawn in by the promise of a horror movie where the villain is racism.You could describe several previous horror films that way. Think “White Zombie” or, to a lesser extent, “Ni … [Read more...]

“Grandfather Had Fangs”: I review an Estonian satirical novel

at AmCon: Kivirähk is well-known in his native Estonia. Snakish is his crossover novel, winning the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, lending its name to a board game, and, in 2015, becoming the first of his books to be translated into English. It’s a wild ride, full of twists and violent incident. The mordant fairytale tone will please fans of Angela Carter. Snakish is a novel about decline and fall, the passing of a way of life—or rather, it’s a novel about several conflicting narratives of decline. … [Read more...]

“Their Wives and Their Wealth Have Made Them So Mute”: Reading Waugh’s biographies of Campion & Knox

Recently finished Two Lives, which encloses in one volume Evelyn Waugh's biographies of St Edmund Campion, a martyr of the English Reformation, and Ronald Knox, a semirandom priest. You should absolutely read the Campion biography. It's passionate and the prose hangs in garlands, with thorns tipped in blood. It isn't swoony or silly (like the sentence I just wrote), it isn't sentimental or polemical although this is Waugh so he does stick a shiv in occasionally; in general it's crisp and acrid, … [Read more...]

“Corruptible Crown”: I review “King Charles III”

at First Things:The most reactionary thing about King Charles III, the modern Shakespeare pastiche playing through March 18 at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC, is that nobody kneels to the king. Charles, written by Mike Bartlett and directed by David Muse, takes place in the near future, between the obsequies for Queen Elizabeth II and the coronation of her successor. Bartlett imagines a Prince of Wales who has been unwittingly training himself for dictatorial self-assertion. His … [Read more...]

Taking the Rough with the Smooch: Movie notes

A couple quick hits before we move to our main event, viz. a trip back in time to Gay 1986.Habit: Do you like artsy bisexual '90s vampire movies, but found Nadja too cold, The Addiction too smart, and everybody too good-looking? Boy do I have a film for you. Habit follows a startlingly disheveled and run-down dropout type (writer/director/star Larry Fessenden) as he meets a cute early-'90s chick at a party and begins to wonder why people are disappearing. The direction is really sharp--the … [Read more...]

I review “I Am Michael,” The James Franco Ex-Gay Biopic

for America: For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.”As James Franco vehicles go, “I Am Michael” may be the James Franco-iest. Directed by Justin Kelly and based on a true story, “I am Michael” follows a gay activist who finds Jesus and proclaims himself no longer gay. The film dedicates equal time to threesome makeout scenes and chapter-and-verse Bible q … [Read more...]