“I Would Like to Send You a Memory”

ok yes, there's some really great stuff here--I thought it would be glurgy or hipster but it is really neither of those things: The more I looked, the more I found. And I discovered that, secretly, the YouTube comment box had become the strangest and most wonderful place on the internet. A place that was fascinating, endlessly moving, and heartbreakingly human. "The hustle was sexy and graceful," and other moments of joy, penitence, grief, war, love, and growing up. … [Read more...]

“There’s This Thing That Keeps Rising in the Background”

Craving is “the one condition all addicts agree is their worst enemy,” Lewis said. “This is one place where science and subjectivity have to come together. Scientists need to focus on this, because addicts are completely unanimous about it. This is the enemy. It’s not physical withdrawal symptoms, it’s not relief. It is craving." Buddhism teaches that “craving is the fundamental engine of personality development,” Lewis said. “It’s what keeps us going around and around.” But if you don’t much li … [Read more...]

“Identity Theft”: I review (and LOVE) “The Goldfinch”

in the Weekly Standard: When we speak of “the permanent things,” we should mean the enduring, inescapable, and unfulfilled longings of the contradictory human heart: the helpless yearnings found across radically different times and cultures. And among these permanent desires, the need for home and the need for ecstasy stand preeminent.Donna Tartt made her name with 1992’s bestselling murder-by-paganism tale The Secret History, which explored our longing for ecstatic release from the self. Th … [Read more...]

Carrying Her: Ann Patchett’s “Truth and Beauty”

Kafka has this great line, "A belief is like a guillotine: just as heavy, just as light." I could easily have titled a post about Ann Patchett's memoir of her friendship with poet and memoirist Lucy Grealy, "A Friend Is Like a Guillotine...." Lucy was light, literally--she had jaw cancer as a child, and the chemotherapy, radiation and endless surgeries she endured left her unable to chew and barely able to swallow, so she weighed very little. Ann carries her many times throughout this book. At … [Read more...]

“Never Quite Free”: My series on portrayals of penitence concludes

with a look at the Mountain Goats, We Shall All Be Healed. This piece has a couple lines I really like: One way to mistell stories of penitence is to envision penance as a linear process of restoration. You do a bad thing, you feel bad, you make amends (often in a way which involves saying ritual words like “I’m sorry,” or doing something which offers an obvious symbolic parallel to your wrongdoing), status quo ante. There can be truly sublime portrayals of this kind of almost mathematical penit … [Read more...]

Enough Is Never Enough… Of “The Stuff”!

So here in the wacky land we call the Catholic Church, Halloween is the beginning of spooky death season, not the end. All of November is set aside to honor the dead, and while I may have some serious posts on that theme, I also plan to watch a ton of horror movies, because I'm the Halloween equivalent of the person who gets really intense about singing Christmas carols on December 26, apparently. I started off with The Stuff, a 1985 killer-yogurt flick.Well, the 1985 killer-yogurt flick, I … [Read more...]

From E.L. Konigsburg, “The Second Mrs. Gioconda”

"Festival," he explained to Salai, "is like lightning. It has no history, and it has no future. It lights up everything for a brief second. It passes. It leaves nothing of itself save its effect. The lightning itself is never there to be pawed over by future generations. A pageant, dear Salai, gives an artist a chance to zigzag through time like lightning, like a wild, irresponsible thing." … [Read more...]


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