January 11, 2019

Can You Ever Forgive Me? is a straightforward rise-and-fall tale. Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a once-successful writer who has alienated everybody around her beyond the point where they’re willing to help her get paid, is behind on her rent and living in depressive squalor. When illness threatens her only friend (a cat… no judgment) Lee has to get cash into the vet’s hands fast. A coincidence sends her spiraling into the world of literary letter forgery, as she passes off… Read more

January 11, 2019

The Catholic Herald with breaking news from the Middle Ages: The standard textbooks on the history of Western choral music certainly portray it as a largely male preserve, maintained by male composers writing works for men and boys to sing. The contribution of women gets acknowledged at the very start of things, when Hildegard of Bingen and her nuns were singing in the 12th century. But thereafter, women disappear from the narrative – unfairly, says Stras, when there was actually… Read more

January 10, 2019

Cruising, the 1980 sleaze thriller where Al Pacino goes undercover in the New York leather/s&m scene to catch a serial killer, is notorious for both smut and homophobia. The thing is, it’s fantastic. (Every day is self-parody day, I know, I know.) All the angry critics were right. Even after William “Maybe Your Movies Need ‘The Exorcist'” Friedkin cut 40 minutes from the film in order to avoid an X rating, it’s still just a lot more explicitly sexual and… Read more

January 7, 2019

and her Church: In the 2013 Joseph Gordon-­Levitt romantic comedy Don Jon, the porn-obsessed title character hits the confessional, reels off his ­usual list of sins against chastity, and then cheerfully heads to the gym to pray his Hail Marys while doing pull-ups. You won’t find this moment in Patrick W. Carey’s careful new study, Confession: Catholics, Repentance, and Forgiveness in America. Carey had to set sharp limits on his sources in order to keep the project manageable; he frames… Read more

December 30, 2018

Post title via Don Colacho. Best books read for the first time (non-fiction): Rebecca Lemon, Addiction and Devotion in Early Modern England. Ever feel like somebody wrote a book just for you? Sigrid Undset, Catherine of Siena. Toons for our times. Colin Ward, The Child in the City. The child as anarchist is also the child as traditionalist. Ray Huang, 1587, A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline. A recommendation from Will Wilson after I asked him… Read more

December 29, 2018

A motley assortment, although I guess they do all roughly fit the post title. Camille Acker, Training School for Negro Girls. I don’t know if this is the best recognizably “D.C.” short-story collection I’ve ever read–it has to battle with Edward Jones’s All Aunt Hagar’s Children–but it’s definitely the most recognizably D.C. short-story collection I’ve ever read. Acker’s stories all take place in the rapidly vanishing world of ungentrified D.C. Several of them are heavyhanded. When Acker doesn’t like a… Read more

December 14, 2018

getting emotional about Spanish Counter-Reformation painting, as is my wont: The most beautiful and insightful depiction of penance I know does not feature hairshirts, whips or tears. It does not even depict amends for any personal sin. more Read more

December 12, 2018

at First Things: Moving to the other side of the world did not diminish the video’s place in my life as much as I thought it would. It was still the first result when you Googled my name, which presumably is one reason I couldn’t find a job for the first eighteen months. Eventually, I found a position at a think tank. When I released my first report, an Australian MP tweeted a link to the video and asked why… Read more

December 10, 2018

I’m in the Washington Post in re: Pope Francis & gay priests: Homosexuality in the priesthood “worries” Pope Francis. This he made clear in a book excerpt published this month by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, immediately igniting confusion in the Catholic Church, including among the gay laity. As a gay woman who accepts Catholic teaching, I understand the confusion. In more abstract comments, the pope frames gay people as servants of God. But his more direct statements present… Read more

December 8, 2018

The Favourite is a monstrously satisfying movie. This tale of eighteenth-century intrigue in the British royal court has everything: melodrama, self-deception, scheming; opportunistic lesbianism (and maybe other kinds); shooting, poison, slap-kick-kiss; lords in giant fluffy wigs and beauty marks racing ducks. Heartbreak. Ah, I loved this thing, it gave me everything I wanted, including a few things I hadn’t anticipated wanting. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman–all three of the leads are terrific) is an irresolute monarch, controlled by her “favorite” Sarah… Read more

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