“The Wisdom of the Beguines”: Commonweal Book Review on Medieval Laywomen Mystics

with tons of fascinating stuff: In the twelfth century, single women began moving in large numbers from farms to cities of the Low Countries to work in the textile industry. Many of these women formed communal living arrangements that offered safe, affordable accommodation, and a life of service to their neighbors. According to Laura Swan’s recent book, The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women’s Movement, the beguines, who flourished for several hundred years, were one … [Read more...]

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From Lionel Johnson, “By the Statue of King Charles at Charing Cross”

Vanquished in life, his deathBy beauty made amends:The passing of his breathWon his defeated ends. --whole thing … [Read more...]

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From Fyodor Dostoyevsky, “The Idiot”

tr Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky--letter written by a terminally-ill teenager, so Dostoyevsky is fully on-trend: First of all, there is a strange thought here: who, in the name of what right, in the name of what motive, would now take it into his head to dispute my right to these two or three weeks of my term? What court has any business here? Who precisely needs that I should not only be sentenced, but should graciously keep to the term of my sentence? Can it really be that anyone … [Read more...]

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“Population: 1,” A Punk History of the Late, Great USA

"If you don't remember the 80s, just imagine listening to Duran Duran's 'Hungry Like the Wolf' playing on a boom box that at any moment could explode, killing you and everyone you know."Population: 1 opens with basically a music video, in which a snaggle-toothed chanteuse wonders why nobody loves her, and then dies on a riverbank. She's glorious--just enough menace, just enough shriek--but what actually is going on here? We cut to an underground bunker where a scrawny degenerate is watching … [Read more...]

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“Merry Widows, Weeping Brides”: I review a costume show at MoMA

for AmCon: In college I noticed something new on the coat of a sartorially-eccentric friend. “What’s with the black armband?” I asked. “Some sort of fascist thing?”“It’s for my father,” he said simply.That’s the only time I’ve seen someone wear mourning. And my friend, after one too many encounters with similarly foot-in-mouth undergraduates, stopped wearing the armband because it got too grueling to keep explaining. It no longer served as an outer key to his inner grief; it no longer si … [Read more...]

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From “Infinite Jest”

The 'base [freebase cocaine] frees and condenses, compresses the whole experience to the implosion of one terrible shattering spike in the graph, an afflated orgasm of the heart that makes her feel, truly, attractive, sheltered by limits, deveiled and loved, observed and alone and sufficient and female, full, as if watched for an instant by God. … [Read more...]

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“Youngest Son Adds Laments to the Indie Hymnal”: I’m at AmCon

with some music: We’ve tussled here about the possible merits of Mumford & Sons, and discussed other albums from the Christ-haunted section of the indie music world. There may be enough of these artists now to constitute a tradition or subgenre: heartfelt guys with sincere guitars, aching and unslaked souls whose faith is found in silhouette, in the negative space which remains despite everything they’ve lost. Youngest Son, a project of heartfelt/sincere Chicagoan Steve Slagg, has two new al … [Read more...]

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