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Literature


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, […]

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. […]

Judgment, Grace, and Rest in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid

Next up in our series of conference videos, Will McDavid discusses the lesser known short story, “A Circle in the Fire,” by Flannery O’Connor. A thorough take on a story that blazes…

Judgment, Grace, and Rest in Flannery O’Connor – Will McDavid

Jim Thompson and the Killer Inside Us All

This one comes to us from Jay Mullinix. Call it a bibliophile’s guilty pleasure. I have long harbored an affinity for the mass-market paperback originals which appeared in the years following World War II. Published by such houses as Dell, Lion, Ace, Popular Library, and — most famously — Gold Medal, these novels were small […]

Leslie Jamison on Self-Forgiveness and Shame

The most recent edition of Image features a lovely interview with Leslie Jamison. We can’t stop writing about her, especially after her extraordinary talk at our conference this year in New York. In the interview, she discusses a number of other concerns—the fear that our feelings are clichés, that privilege and difference inhibit resonance with […]

Its Radiant Affliction: #Blessed by Empire, Wounded by God

On the day when The weight deadens On your shoulders And you stumble, May the clay dance To balance you. (‘Beannacht,’ John O’Donohue) When my grandmother slanders someone, she always follows it with benevolence. “He’s dumb as a rock,” she’ll say, “bless his heart.” “She ain’t worth a plugged nickel, bless her heart.” I think […]

Moral Ground Must Be Shored Up By Mercy: In Memory of Toni Morrison

“She is a friend of my mind… The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order.” So wrote the famed novelist Toni Morrison in Beloved, in a passage describing a love that goes deeper than the physical, engendering self-worth. Such love runs throughout many of the […]

Right: An Unspoken Sermon

This one comes to us from Alan Jacobs. Anthony Trollope’s novel He Knew He Was Right is, like Shakespeare’s Othello, a story of jealousy. But not really. Its true subject is something far worse, and far more common, than jealousy. And if we understand the real point of the story, we’ll understand something about Christian […]

Taking a Walk? Godspeed!

Solvitur ambulando, or “It is solved by walking,” in Latin — a Roman quip probably effused on one of the many roads that leads to (or from) the travertine city. Note the passive voice, which permits the speaker to omit any specific notion of what is actually solved by walking. But perhaps that’s the point […]

The Church and the Whorehouse: What’s the Difference?

“The church and the whorehouse arrived in the Far West simultaneously. And each would have been horrified to think it was a different facet of the same thing. But surely they were both intended to accomplish the same thing: the singing, the devotion, the poetry of the churches took a man out of his bleakness […]

What I Stand On: Wendell Berry’s Collected Catechisms

The closer he got to Henry County, Kentucky, the more nervous he became. He had been invited by Wendell Berry to visit his home — the Wendell Berry. When his rental car pulled up outside their house, the late Nobel-Prize-winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, thought, “This man is too good for me, and it’s going […]