The Imperfectionists is a 2010 novel, or necklace of short stories, about an English-language newspaper in Rome. At first it seems weirdly unwilling to be a book about news. There’s a lot of quite resonant portrayal of the business of filling the paper, the desperate hunt for copy or fight for bylines, but for a while I felt like I could be reading about almost any enterprise in which grubby human motives hide behind an idealistic facade. It’s one of… Read more

at FareForward: In 2005 a Czech novelist writes a book, one of the rare Czech works to portray the 1968 Soviet invasion. This book tells the tale of a young orphan lad who is raised by nuns, then left to wander a militarized landscape; he’s taken in by a Soviet tank troop, but he’s haunted by Czechia, the mythical woman who embodies his homeland, and his tale reaches its climax when he finds the forest of trees carved with her… Read more

The heart should be all of one piece. No hidden motives should lurk within it. The believer should face others with a heart as transparent to their needs as it was to the will of God. “Singleness of heart” condensed a warm and eminently sociable ideal. It summed up the moral horizons of the average man. It formed the basis of a morality of solidarity, which stressed unaffected straight dealing and ungrudging loyalty to kin and neighbors. It was a… Read more

Okay, I thought I could write a coherent series of posts relating the concerns of contemporary gay Christians to Peter Brown’s terrific study of “sexual renunciation in early Christianity,” but coherence proves elusive as always, so you’ll just get my notes. Christian sexual renunciates–vowed virgins, the first monastics, even married people who gave up sex with their spouse–intruded into the pagan world like strange, stripped dancing skeletons, part memento mori and part jester. Let me begin by painting a picture… Read more

Scarface: Slinky, sleazy Paul Muni. I guess it’s ok to totally glamorize murder if you slap on a few beginning titles and then make it end with the guy pathetic. Believe me, we won’t forget what he was like when he was cool. Loved Muni and also his character’s sad relationship with his sister. The Roaring Twenties: This is the noir gangster film I hadn’t heard of, and honestly, I liked it a lot better than Scarface (although I also… Read more

On Wednesday I went to a discussion at the Catholic Information Center here in DC, hosted by Fare Forward (I’m in the magazine! reviewing a Czech genocide-tourism novel, it’s fantastic, I think the review is pretty good too), on “Christianity, Liberalism, And the Challenges of Our Day.” You can watch the discussion here. Before I plunge in, I will say that I have not read any of the authors’ pieces in FF, because this is my blog and I am… Read more

at First Things. And I did an extended twitter thread of notes, outtakes, and skating videos which I think is a good companion to the piece. There seem to be two directions in which a movie with this knowing, winking attitude can go. If we’re lucky, it will be pure camp, in which the grotesque, disgraced female is an audience-identification figure, a pitied monster. If we’re unlucky, it will be a comedy of contempt, inviting us to laugh at lowlife… Read more

I’ve been doing a thing where I bring various periods of my life, and the people who were with me then, to prayer. So I’ll say a decade of the day’s rosary for them, and offer up for them whatever is there to be offered in the day; and I’ve also made this more fun for myself by revisiting art (/pop) that is in some way connected with that time and those people. So like, this current week will be… Read more

As always I shall switch from “best” to “favorite” and back as my whimsy takes me. Books (nonfiction). Peter Brown, The Body and Society: Men, Women, And Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity. A classic (I think?) study of the many varied practices and meanings of continence (aka no sex having from now on) in the early Church. Fantastic, fun to read, and I’m really looking forward to writing something inspired by this, on the varied practices and meanings of specifically… Read more

OK so I’m writing this book, supposedly, about why it is so hard for so many gay people growing up in the Church to experience God as a tender father or lover who cherishes them, what it’s like to start experiencing that divine tenderness for the first time, and practices which can help people know God in this way. And I’d like to include a lot of other people’s voices, since it was talking to other gay Christians which convinced… Read more

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