Tuesday, December 23, 2014

This Year in Reading #2: Hold the Dark

Midway through his “Wreck of the Deutschland,” a long meditation on the death of five Franciscan nuns in an 1875 shipwreck off the English coast, poet Gerard Manley Hopkins pauses from the narrative and turns his thoughts inward, reflecting on his role as storyteller:

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This Year in Reading #1: What Happened to Sophie Wilder

It is the time of year for best-of and top-ten lists, so I thought I’d add my own version and  discuss, in the next few posts, some of the books I’ve read over the past year. I’ll begin with What Happened to Sophie Wilder, the 2012 debut novel of Christopher Beha.

Monday, December 8, 2014


          Last week saw a mass exodus of editors and writers at The New Republic, one of the most prominent cultural magazines in America, which just celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ineluctable Modality of the Visible: Jacques Lusseyran's Literature of Light

Ineluctable modality of the visible: at least that if no more, thought through my eyes. Signatures of all things I am here to read, seaspawn and seawrack, the nearing tide, that rusty boot. Snotgreen, bluesilver, rust: coloured signs. Limits of the diaphane. But he adds: in bodies. Then he was aware of them bodies before of them coloured. How? By knocking his sconce against them, sure. Go easy. Bald he was and a millionaire, maestro di color che sanno. Limit of the diaphane in. Why in? Diaphane, adiaphane. If you can put your five fingers through it, it is a gate, if not a door. Shut your eyes and see.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review at Crux

Crux, the Boston Globe's new website covering Catholic news and issues, is running my book review of Why We Walked Away, a collection of essays by priests who left the ministry in the wake of Vatican II. I will be doing more reviewing for Crux in the next few months, and will post all links here.

The first quarter is wrapping up for us here at school, and I hope to have another post up here as soon I can get my head above the sea of papers and recommendations on my desk!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Self as Marketplace

The money changers have come to the temple. The very places where we should be able to encounter our true selves, and, if you're Christian, Christ—our desires, longings, sorrows, joys, hopes—are subjected to the market of free enterprise like never before.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Contra Textbooks

     Continuing on the theme of mystery, one topic I’d like to take up is the use of literature textbooks in Catholic high schools. My experience, both as a student and teacher, has been with the ubiquitous, state-approved fare from big publishing houses. There are many problems with this type of textbook, all of which I won’t take up in this post, but I do wish to talk about one big beef: pictures.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Realm of Mystery


Richard Rodriguez is one of the few contemporary American writers whose Catholicism seems to reside at the forefront of his identity. To give you an idea of his clout in the academic world, he was selected, along with the likes of Frank Kermode, Burton Raffel, and Seamus Heaney, to introduce a unit in the mass-market literature textbook that our high school uses. He is canonical reading for most university writing courses. Perhaps no other writer so accepted by the secular elite openly addresses the Catholic faith and how it has shaped his vision of the world.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Socrates or Plato?

At a used book sale last spring I came across a book by Virginia professor Mark Edmundson, whose name I recognized from various publications (see here, here, and here). Despite the mawkish title, Teacher: The One Who Made the Difference, hardcovers were only a dollar-fifty, and I took it home.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mystery and the Manners of the Modern Student

The modern world view, marked by a suspicion of anything not empirical, skeptical to the possibility of transcendence or mystery, is our age’s default perspective. What exists beyond the data points of observable human emotion and action? Our society has no answer. Modernity is the air we breathe, the language we use, the habits we form.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Walker Percy and Writing this Blog

Over the summer I got together with some teacher friends to read and discuss Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins, his wildly funny dystopian satire written in the early 1970s. It’s a grab-bag of a book (“everything in it but the kitchen sink,” Percy once told the Paris Review) and I couldn’t get enough of its odd mix of science-fiction, philosophy, ribald humor, and eerily prophetic descriptions of American life in the 1990s, as he imagined it.