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About CJ

Managing editor of the Mockingbird website and head of Mockingbird Publications (store.mbird.com). His favorite books are for ages 7-12.

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Author Archive
    

    The Convenient Battlefield of Language, or, “This Zadie Smith Is Everything”

    On the Internet, a word that will always get attention is “Actually.” You can bet it will be followed by such-and-such a reason why so-and-so is wrong, and what could be more interesting? Especially among wordy or academic types, language is so prolific that drawing lines of what should and shouldn’t be said seems imperative, […]

    Text Message for the Otherworld

    When I was in school, Facebook was young. One evening, I saw a dead classmate’s profile, his picture featured on the sidebar, a recommended friend. I spent the next hours perusing the status updates he had posted when he did not realize his days were numbered. For anyone wondering, now Facebook has an answer for […]

    Another Week Ends: Lost Dog, Greta Thunberg, a Trip to the Future, Dubious Evangelicalism, David Powlison, Ken Burns and Lil Nas X

    1. Jesus’s parable of the lost sheep is one of the great stories in the Bible, and also ever. A shepherd leaves behind everything in search of one lost sheep — and of course, it’s about more than that. It’s about humankind’s wandering nature and the tirelessness of God. But if you’ve heard the story […]

    Alice McDermott on the Comfort Faith Provides

    From her fresh “Art of Fiction” interview, Alice McDermott discusses religion and writing, and her reluctance to be labeled a “Catholic writer.” She also reveals the origins of her most recent novel, The Ninth Hour (2017), which follows the Little Sisters of the Sick Poor, a group of nuns with all sorts of personalities, in […]

    Muriel Spark: On the Demands of the Christian Religion (Or, On Chewing While Reading the Scriptures)

    A choice excerpt from Muriel Spark’s first novel “The Comforters,” which was written after her conversion to Catholicism: “She always insisted that the book could not have been written without her conversion”; religion “had enabled her to write.” The book follows a fresh convert, Caroline, who here responds to a memory of the hoggish Mrs. […]

    Salvation by Transaction: On Institutional Decline

    Economists, look alive. Transaction Man, the new book from Nicholas Lemann, details the recent history of big ideas, the “master organizing principles for society.” Heady at first blush, the book becomes a keen survey of anthropology and how actual people live and work. Lemann employs “Transaction Man” as a catchall denoting some or all of […]

    Taylor Swift and the Ministry of Retribution

    True fans of Taylor Swift will smell something fishy about the New York Times headline, “Taylor Swift, Philosopher of Forgiveness.” Because when it comes to Taylor’s philosophy of forgiveness, what songs come to mind? Maybe her early hit “Picture to Burn”? Or its music video in which she fantasizes about breaking into an ex’s house […]

    Ruh Ro… Fifty Years of Faith in Accidents

    What brought you here was your insatiable appetite for a juicy mystery. – Emile Mondavarious Imagine a cool, moonlit night. Skeletal trees line a narrow gravel road, and headlights are glowing in the distance. A vehicle is coming: an old, sputtering pick-up steered by some middle-aged mustachioed man. A groovy, slightly haunting tune plays as, […]

    On (Not) Talking about Religion in College, or Ever

    Michael S. Roth, president of Wesleyan University, made some pertinent observations in a recent piece for The Atlantic, “When Faith Comes Up, Students Avert Their Eyes.” Roth says that in the classroom students can talk about nearly anything — identity, sexuality, politics — but not faith. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. In unwelcome environments, […]

    Another Week Ends: Poultrygeist, White Claw, Andrew Luck, Addictive Toughness, Self-Criticism, David and Goliath, Goop, Ex-Vegans, and Not Being Nice

    1. Much of life can seem like a reaction to childhood. What our parents allowed us to do, what they themselves did, often leaves us wanting the opposite. Classic examples include the small-town teen who longs for the big city, or Nietzsche, son of a pastor, who grew up to declare in the most boisterous […]

    Walter Ciszek Did Not Mind Talking About Himself

    “The man who is truly humble and very close to God does not mind talking about himself. And so I’m going to talk about myself.” – Fr. Walter Ciszek, S.J.[1] The speaker of the above words survived twenty-three years in the Soviet Gulag. He was tortured, sentenced to fifteen years of heavy labor, and all […]

    The Literature Is Instagram: On Self-Care, Not Self-Help

    Sayonara self-help, hello self-care. From The New York Times Kate Carraway traces the evolution of the more rules-based improvement movement into the newer, more feelings-based one. Whereas self-help “sought to categorize and instruct,” self-care now aims to “to soothe and calm.” Overall, the shift is positive: When you’re agitated, angry, or anxious, instead of imposing expectations, […]

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