“Merry Widows, Weeping Brides”: I review a costume show at MoMA

for AmCon: In college I noticed something new on the coat of a sartorially-eccentric friend. “What’s with the black armband?” I asked. “Some sort of fascist thing?”“It’s for my father,” he said simply.That’s the only time I’ve seen someone wear mourning. And my friend, after one too many encounters with similarly foot-in-mouth undergraduates, stopped wearing the armband because it got too grueling to keep explaining. It no longer served as an outer key to his inner grief; it no longer si … [Read more...]

“This Town Is Dead at Night”: I watch that Iranian-Californian vampire flick

for AmCon: When I heard there was an Iranian-Californian vampire movie where a lady vampire skateboards through a deserted town under the streetlights and the palm trees, her chador blowing out behind her like Dracula’s cape, I thought, That’s awesome!But by the time we actually reached the skateboard scene in “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” all I could think was, That’s terrifying!“A Girl” is a totally effective piece of atmosphere: dreamlike, black and white, with a phenomenal sound … [Read more...]

“Why We Self-Published”: Sherwood Smith

inside the cow with six stomachs and a ten-acre digestive tract: Why the delays? My understanding is that publishing houses have changed a lot in the past forty years, partly because they’ve been scooped up by mega-corporations who regard books as product units, meant to gain instant profit or be dropped. And at minimal cost at their end, which means no more editorial staffs: editors are doing what used to be three and sometimes four people’s full time jobs, which means reading actual man … [Read more...]

From Sigrid Undset, “Marta Oulie”

Now I take a more lenient view of many things, but that's because I too am guilty. When I was young and innocent I was a harsher judge.We keep learning all our lives--but God help us what we learn. To understand everything is supposed to mean to forgive everything; if so, then may God spare me from those people who forgive too much. That's merely something we say to console ourselves when life starts to leave its mark on us, and we have done various things that we would have been ashamed of … [Read more...]

Fra Angelico and the Sex-Hating Church

A really rambling post.Now that my book is out I've been doing a lot of interviews, and in many of them I've been asked to tell my conversion story. A huge part of my conversion involved realizing that the Catholic Church wasn't what I'd thought it was. For example, I had this image that the Church opposed and rejected the human body--the beauty of the body, the joy of the senses--and denigrated all sensual beauty and pleasure, from the beauty of a Japanese maple to the ecstasy of sex. (I'm … [Read more...]

“Marilynne Robinson in Montgomery”

This essay takes a while to get going, but it's a good, steady look at the way aesthetics and theology can lead us to flatten human experience--especially when "us" is white Americans writing about race. As somebody with a very "suffering and humiliation keep you close to Christ, you should consider them sometime" spiritual style myself, it was good to get a reminder of the way that kind of spirituality can cut against a communal pursuit of justice. As somebody who loves Robinson's books, it was … [Read more...]

The Butcher Birds: Lloyd Alexander, “The Kestrel”

I recently read a q&a with two authors in which one of them, Rachel Manija Brown, was asked for recommendations of books on post-traumatic stress. She's written some really clear & useful posts on the subject, so I was interested in what she'd say--and especially intrigued when she cited a children's fantasy novel as "one of my favorite depictions of how war can make people completely lose their minds, and how some of them come back from that and some don't."I'd read a couple of the … [Read more...]


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