“Grandfather Had Fangs”: I review an Estonian satirical novel

at AmCon: Kivirähk is well-known in his native Estonia. Snakish is his crossover novel, winning the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, lending its name to a board game, and, in 2015, becoming the first of his books to be translated into English. It’s a wild ride, full of twists and violent incident. The mordant fairytale tone will please fans of Angela Carter. Snakish is a novel about decline and fall, the passing of a way of life—or rather, it’s a novel about several conflicting narratives of decline. … [Read more...]

“To Fast Again”: Eamon Duffy

says a lot of important things: The ritual observance of dietary rules—fasting and abstinence from meat in Lent, and abstinence from meat and meat products every Friday, as well as the eucharistic fast from midnight before the reception of Communion—were as much defining marks of Catholicism before the council as abstention from pork is a defining characteristic of Judaism. The Friday abstinence in particular was a focus of Catholic identity which transcended class and educational barriers, uni … [Read more...]

The Relics of Richard III: An older but provocative post on medieval bones and modern worship

by Eleanor Parker aka A Clerk of Oxford. The rest of this post is quite peaceable and non-polemical but I fastened my fangs on the very David Foster Wallace/"everybody worships" bit: There's no doubt that many people today are fascinated by the relics of kings, even as they look down on the medieval age for caring about the relics of saints. We're quite accustomed to the idea of a royal shrine as a place of historical pilgrimage - or else Westminster Abbey wouldn't be able to charge such steep … [Read more...]

I Don’t Believe in Modern Love (But I Do Love “Modern Manners”)

Recently revisited Modern Manners: An Etiquette Guide for Rude People, my favorite PJ O'Rourke. I think what makes it work is the mix of elements. It's mostly corny humor, like the extended segment on food fights ("Use a raw oyster to show someone what a French kiss would be like if she'd married a reptile"). There's also a lot of witticism: a lot of peppy, preppy cynicism. But mixed into all that there is just enough genuine insight (the bit about how modern people have replaced love with … [Read more...]

“The Reactionary Mind”: Ross Douthat Gives Me an Excuse

to push you toward the late virago Florence King (I'd start here) and also to suggest Charles Johnson as someone whose weird little parables expressed a lot of reactionary insights from a black American perspective. Also, follow Don Colacho on Twitter....Our intelligentsia obviously does have a conservative wing, mostly clustered in think tanks rather than on campuses. But little of this conservatism really deserves the name reaction. What liberals attack as “reactionary” on the American rig … [Read more...]

Church Division vs. Your Vocation: A tiny Gay Catholic Whatnot post

I was at Calvin College to do a talk on "Christian Love and Kinship Outside of Marriage: Perspectives from a Gay Catholic." (Here are my notes from Calvin's Festival of Faith & Writing, tickets to which were an awesome perk for speaking.) I got a lot of great questions, including one which I super could not answer, about how architecture and city planning can move away from the post-19th c. model of single-family homes and warehouses for singles, nuclear families only, no others need apply. … [Read more...]

“Book Recommendation: Poor Relief in England 1350 – 1600”: The Dorothy Option

relevance! ...McIntosh also takes care to outline the change in attitude toward the poor as she finds it in legal verbiage. Rather than charity as a meritorious act, the new laws concerning the poor become much more concerned with control of aid recipients, placing much more emphasis on behavioral conditions the poor must meet, and implying that poverty was less a result of misfortune and more a moral short-coming on the part of the needy, an attitude McIntosh connects with the Puritan … [Read more...]