The Boy Who Believed in Airplanes

This is Jeffrey Overstreet’s last post as a regular contributor to Good Letters. We thank him for the thoughtful words and reviews he has shared so faithfully and wish him well in his next pursuits.

Matthew was a high school senior, two years ahead of me. He was a gifted musician, a generous friend, and not too cool to hang out with a sophomore like me. I learned a lot from him. His interests in books, music, and movies influenced mine.

But one Saturday afternoon in 1987, as we emerged from a matinee of Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun, Matthew startled me into silence by complaining about the movie. He was smarter than me, a better talker. I was too intimidated to respond. But I disagreed. Fiercely. What he found dispiriting (and “way too long”) I found enthralling and transcendent.

It may have been that afternoon, as I wished for the eloquence to argue, that I began my journey into film criticism. [Read more...]

Halos and Other Important Things

By Jessica Eddings-Roeser
Guest Post

In second grade my mom put me in an art class taught by a fluffy-haired blonde who took us to a museum to sketch a Madonna with child. Before we began, our teacher asked us what we noticed about the painting. I raised my hand.

“She has a golden crown.”

“It’s a halo, not a crown,” my friend Sarah corrected.

“I want one,” I said.

“You can’t have one,” she said. “Only angels have them. Or if you die and go to heaven.”

I didn’t like those options. [Read more...]

Shaping the Heart

The following post is an edited version of the commencement address given at the graduation ceremony of the Seattle Pacific University MFA in Creative Writing program on August 3.

I’d like to share a few thoughts that have emerged from the two texts we’ve been studying together: Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses and Richard Rodriguez’s Brown: The Last Discovery of America.

Though they are vastly different books—one an old-fashioned Western elevated to the heights of tragedy and the other a collection of essays that dance around questions of race and ethnicity—they focus on the same subject.

On the literal level they are concerned with the border between the United States and Mexico, but because they are ambitious works of literature they have other goals in mind. These authors are interested in the borders between cultures, customs, sensibilities—how people eat and drink, how they regard their possessions, how they endure the vicissitudes of life. [Read more...]

Finding Poetry and Meaning in Internet Clicks

Three minutes, maybe four. Six minutes, maybe seven. A little bit of time.

This morning open Google chrome to my homepage the University of North Carolina Asheville. Once it’s loaded, a quick glance at upcoming events. A post Civil War lecture.

First thought: Living in the South, I really should know more about the Civil War and its aftermath. Click.

The link takes me to the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement’s Appalachian Studies Authors Series. I’ve already received an e-mail message and read a story in the Asheville Citizen Times about this series. [Read more...]

Writing on Empty

Last week, I finished the fifth revision of my fifth novel, and got notice from my editor that it’s ready to go into production. I didn’t feel much like celebrating, and didn’t feel satisfaction at a job completed. Most of what I felt was relief, because this book has been something of an ordeal.

Though the book itself did present certain creative challenges, the ordeal, the battle, was not the book itself. Writing is always hard. The real issue these last two years has been creative burnout.

By the time this book comes out, I will have published five books in seven years. Before I submitted the book proposal to my publisher, I wrote in my journal (and I remember this distinctly—can still see the words on the page) that I should not take on another novel project until I got some rest. But I did. With no one twisting my arm, I submitted and sold the novel in proposal form. [Read more...]