A movie about which I have intensely mixed feelings! A lot of these thoughts were formed in conversation with Charles Lehman, for which I am grateful. # Early on, we see a guy reading Flannery O’Connor and so we can guess that this violent story will show us a world somehow mangled, misfired. And my favorite thing about the film is structural: It’s about a series of attempts to get justice which kind of ricochet off their intended targets and… Read more

for First Things: A Book of American Martyrs, Joyce Carol Oates’s novel about the shooting of an abortionist by a Christian “Soldier of God,” is perfectly unempathetic. Lately we’ve heard a lot about how important it is to feel empathy for those on the other side of various moral, political, and religious divides. Even if we abhor the beliefs of others, we are exhorted to see them as complex human beings like ourselves. Oates will have none of it. She… Read more

Some notes on Advent & addiction. I’ve said before that David Carr’s Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life–His Own is the best addiction memoir of the many I’ve read. So much of it rang so true to me when I read it, in late 2011, when I was locked in a terrifying and all-consuming struggle to quit drinking. The bit about how your own words ring false to yourself because you’ve heard all… Read more

Starting with the low point, I’m afraid. Spinning into Butter is an extremely ’90s tale of racial unrest on campus. It is just not good enough in any respect. Anybody who has followed this sort of thing will guess the shocking twist literally in the first five minutes; I assume Sarah Jessica Parker is actually a good actress but she comes across as if she’s reading words off a page here, wooden and implausible; and the film says nothing, I… Read more

is the profile of somebody I didn’t know about, or didn’t know was Catholic, and now find immensely intriguing. Here’s my friend Catherine Addington on Cornelia Augusta Peacock Connelly, who founded a teaching order and lost custody of her children in a hard-fought legal battle with her Protestant-then-Catholic-then-Protestant husband: When Cornelia Augusta Peacock met Pierce Connelly, she was an orphaned heiress whose wealthy Presbyterian relatives disapproved of her marrying a middle-class vicar—let alone an Episcopalian. Young, smitten and economically independent,… Read more

interview-based, v. small number of people but they said some things you’ll want to read: Several years ago I was attending Mass at a downtown church. That day, if memory serves, the last weekday Mass was not crowded, so it stood out when a middle-aged man went up to receive Communion, then hurried out through the front doors of the church. When I left Mass myself I found him at the foot of the church steps, asking the better-off churchgoers… Read more

By coincidence I read Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood for the first time right before reading Marilynne Robinson’s Home for the second. It was impossible to miss the common elements in these two intensely different novels: two men who reject Christ, for whom American racism is one of the most compelling arguments against Christianity, who have ferociously self-destructive urges toward pain as penance, and who have a disastrous sexual relationship with a young teenage girl. (Sabbath Lily Hawks is fifteen; Annie… Read more

For reasons I should maybe sort out with my confessor, I spent a good chunk of the weekend listening to Billy Joel & Bruce Springsteen aka the soundtrack of my childhood home. Gotta say that I found myself more compelled–to my surprise and dismay–by the Swan of Lawn Guyland than by The Boss. Billy Joel has some well-wrought tunes, you guys. Some notes: # Sort of amazing how many different moods Billy Joel can infuse with kitsch. And how little… Read more

I’m just quoting one paragraph but there’s so much to consider and be thankful for here: This connection to health care is central to the Tents’ mission. The speaker continues, “The chief purpose of this organization is to care for the sick, comfort those who are distressed, bury the dead, and provide home for the aged.” These are universal concerns, as pressing today as they would have been during the organization’s founding in the 1860s. But when you realize the… Read more

Halloween season means spooky movie revivals! AFI showed a whole mess of films by the great Val Lewton, of which I revisited Cat People, The Seventh Victim, and Curse of the Cat People. And the Regal at Gallery Place showed the director’s cut of Little Shop of Horrors–the cut with the unhappy ending. I was in hog heaven. Some notes: Cat People: AFI showed Cat People as a standalone, and then did a double feature of The Seventh Victim and… Read more

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