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

This winter I’ve had the true pleasure of revisiting a comics series I adored in childhood, Wendy and Richard Pini’s ElfQuest. It is about elves on a quest (more than one quest! so many quests!) and although it is marked in some bad ways by its late ’70s – early ’80s origin, it is an artistic triumph and a genuine delight. It’s also, it turns out, full of themes which would continue to shape my life up through my conversion… Read more

running my mouth: In 2015, a blog called Spiritual Friendship, which publishes theological and personal reflections of interest to gay people who accept the Christian sexual ethic, interviewed Kelley Cutler about her work with LGBT homeless youth. Cutler said: “One question I’ve asked most LGBT Catholics I’ve met is, ‘Why do you stay in the Church?’ Think about it: they could go right down the street to another faith community that has different teachings. So why do they stay? I have… Read more

Yaa Gyasi’s debut novel, Homegoing, is the uneven execution of a brilliant and haunting premise. Homegoing starts with two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, in colonial Ghana. The sisters never meet–we slowly learn the circumstances which led their mother to flee her first home for her second. One sister becomes the wife/mistress of the British governor of the Cape Coast Castle. The other sister becomes a slave, sent from the castle’s dungeon across the Middle Passage to America. Homegoing follows the… Read more

in which I take in my little review which couldn’t find a home. That’s why it’s written all professional-like: Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express opens with a slapstick religious conflict and rises to a windswept, prosecutorial climax. In between there are gunshots and stabbings, and the great detective Hercule Poirot, sans his traditional embonpoint, leaps around a train trestle in pursuit of a suspect. The setup of Express is simple. Mr. Ratchett, a shady American businessman (Johnny Depp,… Read more

at First Things: It may be gauche to say that novels should be moral tales; but nothing can compete with morality for dramatic tension and structure. Kayla Rae Whitaker’s debut novel, The Animators, is a raw and propulsive book . . . right up until its fizzly, self-satisfied ending. The Animators centers on the friendship of two hot-mess women. Mel Vaught and Sharon Kisses meet in art school. Mel walks around in a swirling Pigpen cloud of sleaze and chaos;… Read more

This is so cool! You can listen to the interview in English (here, I think?) or read it in Russian, thanks to the hard work of interviewer & translator Nikolay Syrov: Ив Ташнет — писатель из Вашингтона, открытая лесбиянка и католичка, избравшая путь посвященной Богу жизни. Она родилась в 1978 году, а в 1998 году, во время учебы в Йельском университете, стала католичкой. Её первая книга «Геи и католики» отражает её путь от либерального атеизма к жизни в вере в Католической Церкви,… Read more

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

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