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...]

Photographs of Moms Being Treated for Painkiller Addiction

at the Wall Street Journal: A small but growing number of clinics for mothers-to-be are cropping up around the country in response to a prescription-drug epidemic, which has triggered a rise of addicted mothers giving birth to drug-dependent babies. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of newborns showing symptoms of withdrawal from opioids, which are commonly used to treat pain, rose in the U.S. to 3.4 births per 1,000, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of the American Medical … [Read more...]

“A New York Needle Exchange Program in Action”: Sarah Beller

at The Fix: Around 6 pm on a spring evening, I walk with Hector Mata through an area of northern Manhattan known as “the Zig-Zag," sculpted by the off-ramps of the George Washington Bridge. We pass a playground, go down through a woodsy area, slip through a hole in a fence, and step into a clearing next to a highway. We see cushions, blankets, a makeshift tent and a near-human-sized doll. A real woman is sitting against a stone wall."That's Chris," says Mata. As she hears us approaching, s … [Read more...]

So Many Steps to Death: Revisiting “Brideshead Revisited”

Hey, so I read Brideshead Revisited again. I was in college the first time. Probably read the entire book drunk. Can't think of a better introduction to it! Anyway, here are some scattered thoughts on re-reading it, all of which are ridiculously spoilerous. Seriously, if you haven't read it, SKIP THIS POST and just go read it. It's short! It's phenomenal. I loved it even more the second time. You'll like it more if you don't know what's coming.* The contrast between the "heavy," plodding … [Read more...]


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