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Literature


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, that engenders self-worth. Such love runs throughout many of […]

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 […]

Hopelessly Devoted: Romans Chapter Eight Verses Thirty-One and Thirty-Two (Devotion #2 – Larry Parsley)

What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:31-32, NIV)

The next video from our annual gathering in NYC features conference chaplain and writer Larry Parsley. In this six-minute devotion, Larry discusses the gracious gifts of God and a short story by the brilliant William Trevor. For anyone with a case of the Mondays, the following will serve as a beautiful reminder. Volume up, press play:

Devotion #2 – Larry Parsley from Mockingbird on Vimeo.

The Improbable Persistence of Calling

In one of his final stories for The New Yorker, “The Long Black Line,” former Jesuit John L’Heureux offers a funny and heart-rending tale of a Jesuit novice who leaves the order. [If you have the time, check out a beautiful reading and commentary on the story by one of his former students, and don’t […]

Angels in the Architecture: A Defense of Repetition

A while back, an acquaintance asked me if I was “still writing for that website,” by which she meant Mockingbird. The question was delivered with a smirk that I interpreted as vague condescension from someone I know to be more into DIY than grace. I assured her that I was, in fact, still writing for […]

For Walt So Loved the World

In honor of WW’s 200th birthday, here’s this. I celebrate myself, and sing myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. (1-3) Whitman is my favorite narcissist. His poetry overflows with ego, but instead of being stuffy, his poetic self is so all-embracing, so […]