Quaecumque Vera: 16 Songs for 2016

By Joel Heng Hartse

hartse-best-of-2016-music-playlistYou do not have to feel guilty about loving music. Please keep this in mind. Alan Jacobs, in his The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction, writes, “read what gives you delight…and do so without shame.”

Amen, I say, and don’t be afraid to apply this to the music you like, too. There are no guilty pleasures. Listen to what moves you, regardless of whether you think you are supposed to like it, or it is good for you, or whatever.

Here, then, is my annual playlist. If you’ve been reading “Good Letters” for the last nine years, you know the drill: sixteen songs for 2016, each of which got ahold of me this year, for some reason. [Read more…]

ImageUpdate’s Top Ten of 2016

iutop10_2016Every week, the Image staff curates a digital dispatch of compelling new books, music, artwork, and more, with personal recommendations, links from around the web, and a community message board with calls for art and job postings (not to mention exclusive access to Image discounts and VIP workshop registration!). We deliver these dispatches from the world of art and faith entirely free of charge. We call it: ImageUpdate.

And at the end of every year, we review the 100+ books, albums, art exhibitions, and other artworks shared in this e-newsletter and choose the ImageUpdate Top Ten. It’s an almost-impossible challenge to narrow our selection down to the ten “best,” and to make matters even more complicated, ImageUpdate strives to direct readers’ attention to new and emerging artists, and others we feel deserve your time.

That said, we’re pleased to give you the following list of outstanding work featured in ImageUpdate in 2016. Click the links to see the original issues with full reviews.

Receive this weekly curation service in 2017 (for free!): become an ImageUpdate subscriber here.

 

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A Conversation with Claire Holley

This post originally appeared as a web-exclusive interview accompanying Image journal issue 58.

claire1Mary Kenagy Mitchell for Image: You’ve written in our new issue about balancing songwriting with being a mother. What does your son think of your music? Does he come hear you play?

 Claire Holley: Well, his preferences seem to change a lot. When he was one or two years old, his gut reactions to songs were helpful to me: he might fall asleep, smile big, become animated, or he might be uninterested or fidgety. This last response might tell me that a song wasn’t as strong. I seem to remember one time he heard my song, “Wedding Day” and looked out the window reflectively, then asked to hear it again. But it’s risky, I suppose, to trust someone under five about all your material. [Read more…]

Florence Foster Jenkins, Holy Fool

By Asher Gelzer-Govatos

florence-foster-jenkins-2016-meryl-streepIn many respects the new film Florence Foster Jenkins takes a paint by numbers approach to its genre—the classic biopic. It features a meaty role for a star (Meryl Streep), designed to play well to Oscar voters in the next awards cycle. It gets a lot of mileage—comic and dramatic—out of contemporary differences with its chosen time period (1940s New York). And of course it follows a well-worn dramatic arc: historical figure faces personal and professional tragedy, falls to a low point, then overcomes through the power of the human spirit.

In one very important respect, however, Florence Foster Jenkins stands out: its choice of subject. Unlike the typical biopic the film does not focus on someone of extraordinary ability or historical significance. Instead it examines the final days of a woman more notorious than famous. [Read more…]

Against “Amazing Grace”

hymnalIn a world in which it seems that just about everything seems to be complained about online—bitch, bitch, bitch, moan, moan, moan—ad infinitum, here’s a little beef I’d like to proffer, that I don’t recall having seen anywhere yet:

I despise “Amazing Grace.”

Mind you, I’m not complaining about the notion of grace itself, God’s unmerited favor given in the gift of his son to save us from our sins—the distinctive Christian soteriology. It is not, therefore, the theological concept I doubt—though as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I’m probably a bigger fan of the book of James than a lot of my Protestant brethren.

I don’t even have an issue with the hymn’s composer, John Newton, that poor former British slave trader, who was haunted by the dehumanizing work he had pursued, though not enough to leave it for decades. It was good for him to repent, and write against slavery. I am glad he found forgiveness, despite the horror he perpetuated. (I believe that forgiveness can, indeed, be received. Even for horrendous evils.)

It’s the hymn that’s the problem. [Read more…]