March 19, 2018

Clash: On paper, this is a fairly formulaic movie. During the 2013 conflict between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Armed Forces, a group of Egyptians (and Egyptian-Americans) from disparate religious, political, and social backgrounds all get shoved into the same locked police van, and discover one another’s common humanity. “My enemies are people” is one of those things easy to write but complex to learn; Clash takes the viewer on the journey with the characters, so their… Read more

March 5, 2018

Extremely ’70s rural vampires, a black neorealist classic of work and childhood, and South African manhood rituals in the age of gay rights. Lemora, A Child’s Tale of the Supernatural: A girl whose daddy is in prison is the singing star of her little church, a pure angel with no knowledge of the big bad world. But when her daddy escapes, and little Lila Lee receives a summons to meet with him from a mysterious woman named “Lemora,” she begins… Read more

March 3, 2018

and American religion, by Martyn Jones in the Weekly Standard: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were a husband-and-wife televangelist team who rose to prominence in the 1970s and ’80s before their ministry was brought down by scandal, trickery, and bankruptcy. They lived extravagant lives in front of the camera, inviting viewers into their beautiful homes for holidays and vacations. While most children in this era grew up on television, the Bakkers’ kids grew up on television. In the early days,… Read more

February 25, 2018

I stayed up ’til 1:30 this morning to finish Gabriel Blanchard’s Victorian vampire novel, Death’s Dream Kingdom. It’s the first book in a trilogy and WHERE IS THE SECOND BOOK GABRIEL???? WRITE FASTER GABRIEL!!! On its surface this is a very conventional vampire novel done right–all the trimmings, the dead aestheticism and the vampire politicking and the killer sunlight and the claws. But the book also uses its creepy creatures to portray shame and religious despair (and hope) with rare… Read more

February 17, 2018

>In my project of revisiting my past in prayer, I’ve reached 1998, the year of my conversion. (And in certain ways a moral low point, which is a weird thing to recognize about the year you became a Christian.) I re-read St Anselm, probably for the first time since college and maybe for the first time ever. Not the “ontological proof of God,” which has never done much for me: Let’s all do math on a rollercoaster, and at the… Read more

February 16, 2018

for Commonweal: Daniel Swift runs his new book, The Bughouse: The Poetry, Politics, and Madness of Ezra Pound, like a shell game. Genres flash in front of your eyes: literary criticism, political journalism, biography, institutional history. But Pound himself is under none of the shells. The purpose of the game is to teach you that Pound, subjected to every kind of study and system, remains elusive—incoherent and undiagnosable. more (alternate title: “The Mods Must Be Crazy.” You can thank the… Read more

February 8, 2018

  A book about the special honor accorded virgins, celibates, and others who renounced sex might not be the place you’d expect to find gentle words about the piety of people who really struggle with chastity. Or maybe it would be? As always in Christianity down is up, failure is success, the mighty are cast down and the lowly–including those who consider themselves morally lowly for kind of obvious reasons–are lifted up. For some Christians, Brown finds, sexual temptation itself… Read more

February 7, 2018

So I spoke on Gay Catholic Whatnot at Marquette University last night, as part of their annual Mission Week. Usually I ramble and go over my time. I was determined not to do that this time and managed to make the opposite mistake (yeah everything’s a metaphor for the spiritual life), coming in way under time so that even with q&a the thing ended early. That meant I didn’t say some important things; I also learn a lot every time… Read more

February 5, 2018

On Saturday I ended up at a special Mass at which they blessed plaques honoring people who died in slavery and were buried in unmarked graves throughout the Archdiocese of Washington. The gospel choir from St Augustine’s sang us through, including this especially powerful hymn. And this Mass has special–perhaps surprising–relevance to Peter Brown’s study of sexual renunciation in the early Church. The Mass was an expression of our reverence and God’s tenderness toward these bodies which, in life, were… Read more

February 4, 2018

at the University Bookman: Children fell in love with the tales of John Bellairs (1938–1991) because they perfectly combined creepy and cozy: the laughing skeleton, curled up by the fire with a mug of cider. In novels like The Curse of the Blue Figurine and The Dark Secret of Weatherend Bellairs confronted his child heroes with cruel wizards and apocalyptic prophecies, terrible dreams and grim temptations—often illustrated by Edward Gorey, the other master of elementary-school macabre. Bellairs and Gorey both… Read more

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