Ideas

  • October 28, 2013

    I love horror movies because they show me the sublime. I love them for a lot of other reasons too, I admit, depending on my mood. I don’t believe in a grand, unified theory of horror, or of any other genre of film; most genres are a welter of traditions and counter-traditions. Sometimes you want to see evil defeated by the triumphant “final girl”; at other times, by contrast, you want to see that even the most competent and loving heroines can’t win. You...

  • October 14, 2013

    The cries, it was recorded, could be heard on shore. The piteous shrieks of men “drowning like rattens.” They were the crew of Henry VIII’s beloved flagship, the Mary Rose, the pride of the English Navy Royal, which sank before his very eyes during the Battle of the Solent on July 19, 1545.

  • September 23, 2013

    In the 200 years since the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, women’s rights have risen, empire waists have fallen and many manners of the day have disappeared with the barouche and the bonnet. But a good love story is timeless, and Jane Austen’s novels still have a place in the hearts and on the bookshelves of readers worldwide.

  • March 4, 2013

    Thirty years ago, I met Robert Frost’s close friend, Rabbi Victor Reichert, who lived only a mile down the hill from the poet in Ripton, Vt. Reichert told me about the time Frost came to his synagogue in Cincinnati. There Frost delivered a passionate sermon, explaining to the crowd that he had no time for “irreligion.” He considered Scripture a live, ongoing revelation, and he considered himself a mouthpiece for the word. In describing this, Reichert seized...

  • January 21-28, 2013

    The thread of Jack Kerouac’s literary and personal life in the American imagination might be unwound succinctly in the following terms: ambitious and fun-loving young man leaves behind his small-town upbringing to chase heroes and dreams in the American West, finding along the way new paths to enlightenment while blazing a trail for generations of seekers to follow.

  • December 10, 2012
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    School children are touring the throne room of Buckingham Palace when a taxi enters its enclosure. The youngsters watch as a tuxedoed James Bond (Daniel Craig) steps from the cab. He confidently passes through palace corridors until an attendant, in medals and tails, ushers him into the queen’s chambers. Her Majesty continues to work for a moment.

    “Good evening, Mr. Bond.”

    “Good evening, Ma’am.”

  • October 29, 2012
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    Last fall I visited Zuccotti Park numerous times between its initial occupation on Sept. 17 and when it was violently emptied in the middle of the night by New York City police officers on Nov. 15. After that event I resolved to return two days later to walk with Occupy Wall Street as the movement attempted to close down, or at least delay, the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange. Outnumbered and overpowered by the police, the attempt failed, of course, and over 300 people were...

  • September 10, 2012
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    It is not hard to come by images of the holy in Tijuana. But in a modest building there a group of Sisters in white saris with three blue stripes cherish a wonderful two-for-one: a newspaper photo of Mother Teresa of Calcutta beaming delightedly as she holds in her hands an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The photograph reminds us of Teresa’s history in Tijuana, and of her joyful relationship with Latin America as a whole.

  • August 13, 2012
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    While Team Great Britain’s crew teams rowed to four gold medals at the London Olympics, a Catholic priest, who is a chaplain offering pastoral support to visitors to the Games, meditated on the parallels between the Olympic sport and the life of a Christian. 

  • August 13, 2012
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    Twenty-five years ago I was given the job of covering Michael Dukakis, the eventual 1988 Democratic presidential nominee, for The Atlanta Journal Constitution. This time, the political editor told me, we are going to try to focus on the issues, not the horse race.

    In the end it was, as before and since, the horse race that we and the rest of the press focused on. The political editor’s vow was high-minded, but it did not make much sense to me then. And, perennial as it would become in...