Eagle-eyed readers will notice a tiny change in the magazine’s masthead soon. Starting next week I’ll be listed not as “Culture Editor” but as “Contributing Editor. I’m grateful to Drew Christiansen, our editor-in-chief, and to John Schlegel, S.J., our publisher for agreeing to this newly created position. Essentially it means that I will no longer be editing the “Culture” section of “Books & Culture,” as I have been for the last several years. (Culture includes reviews of film, theater, television, fine arts, architecture, dance and a rather nebulous category we call “Ideas.”)
It’s been a lot of fun, especially since those fields are of interest to me (especially film, television and fine arts); and you can see the many pieces we’ve run in the magazine and online just in the last two years here. Our latest piece, for example, by Emily Hage, on Henry Ossawa Tanner’s astonishing paintings is a good indication of the quality for which we have striven. Our Culture pieces have ranged from straightforward reviews of movies like "The Tree of Life" and "The Descendants" to essays on St. Francis of Assisi in art, attending Mass at Notre Dame in Paris and whether or not Lady Gaga is using or abusing Christian imagery. I’m grateful to our regular reviewers, including John Anderson, John McCarthy and the Rev. Robert Lauder (film); Rob Weinert-Kendt and Michael V. Tueth, S.J (theater); David Nantais (music); Jake Martin, SJ and Kerry Weber (television); Leo J. O’Donovan, S.J., Karen Smith and Judith Dupré (fine arts); Jon Sweeney (Ideas) and so many other fine writers, for inviting people to encounter God in each of those areas. The Books & Culture section has won a few Catholic Press Association Awards (thanks also to Patricia Kossmann, our former literary editor); and John Anderson recently won an award for his film review of "Of Gods and Men."
So why the change when things are humming along? Basically, I’ve been hoping for some time to focus more on tasks that have been taking up more of my time. (I.e., something had to give!) I’ll still be on the masthead (and in the office), still writing articles and Current Comments, and still blogging (QED) and doing the occasional video, but with a little more time to spend writing books, help America respond to the media requests we receive and do the occasional speaking engagement. I’m also grateful to Karen Smith and Tim Reidy who will be handling the print and online versions of Culture, and to the readers for their comments on these pieces over the years. A funny note: our editor in chief asked me what title I would like to use. Hmm....good question. “Writer-in-residence”? That sounded more fit for a college or university. “Editor at Large” made it sound like I was writing from some far-flung locale. But "Contributing Editor" offered a happy double entendre: I’ll still be contributing my energies to America, and the royalties are “contributed” to America, too!
Many thanks to Frs. Christiansen and Schlegel, to Karen Smith and Tim Reidy, and, especially, to the many gifted writers who have volunteered ideas, submitted proposals, written articles, put up with the editing process (and some of my occasional mistakes) and have, through their own artistry, helped our readers find God in the midst of the world of culture.