About Matthew Stokes

Teacher. Husband. Father. Dog owner. Terrible runner. Awful prose writer. Derelict fiction author. Interests in the South, the Crimson Tide, barbecue and Townes Van Zandt.


Author Archive

    The Weight of Being a Gentleman

    If you are a fan of college athletics, you are no doubt aware that the University of Alabama – my alma mater – lost one of its most beloved sons this past weekend. Mal Moore, who recently stepped down as athletics director , passed away on Saturday, March 30. A gentle, unassuming man in many respects, Coach Moore was a giant. As a player, coach and administrator, the man was part of ten – ten! – national championships in football. The athletics programs at the University are performing at a very high level, with excellent coaches and strong revenue streams….

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    The Unforgiving Law of Prep (Part One of Two)

    I cannot be preppy.

    I was not born in Philadelphia.

    I did not attend boarding school.

    I went to a public university. In the Southeast.

    I did not grow up in Made in America, LL Bean hand-me-downs.

    I occasionally shop at J. Crew (which is not preppy).

    I wear slim-fit chinos and shirts, which are also not preppy.

    I don’t remember a time when Brooks Brothers was American-owned and I can’t tell you about how great Orvis used to be or why the Norwegian sweaters were better when they were 20% rayon or how the only good camp moccasins are made in Maine and how outsourcing has…

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    Kingsley Amis and Disdain for the Truth

    Been in something of a creative funk as of late, so I am not going to belabor the point here. Professor Jim Dixon offers these thoughts in Kingsley Amis’ great novel Lucky Jim, and they are so indicative of the human condition: Give me the straight juice, but only if it goes down smooth. Even more telling is the fact that Amis wrote this as a waning Stalinite on the verge of a breakup with the Soviet Union:

    “Now, as Dixon had been half expecting all along, Welch produced his handkerchief. It was clear that he was about to blow his…

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    Ernest Hemingway and the Failure of Art

    From Paul Johnson’s amusing and enlightening book Intellectuals, a lengthy summation of the tragic façade that was the life of Ernest Hemingway:

    “Why did Hemingway long for death? It is by no means unusual among writers. His contemporary Evelyn Waugh, a writer in English of comparable stature during this period, likewise longer for death. But Waugh was not an intellectual: he did not think he could refashion the rule of life out of his own head but submitted to the traditional discipline of his church, dying of natural causes five years later. Hemingway created his own code, based on honour, truth,…

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    Waning Thoughts on the Waning Year

    As if you haven’t read enough year-end lists, I offer you a few thoughts.

    Best personal experience:  Adding the fourth member of Team Stokes, Lucy Carpenter, who arrived on the ubiquitous date of November 11, 2011.  Gentleman beware:  She will be reared on a steady diet of Jane Austen and Emily Dickinson, and I’m giving her a copy of Joni Mitchell’s Blue when she turns fourteen.

    Best live show:  Like most who are married with children, I don’t get out nearly as much as I’d like.  This year I was fortunate to a handful of live performances, and a few really stood…

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    Joe Paterno and the Banality of Evil

    Recent news out of Penn State University is, of course, horrible.  No one who has read the news reports has managed to come away without a sickening feeling.    Commentary in print and on radio and television has been mostly somber, as the crimes are so outrageous that everyone has been measured in their tone.  I say, mostly, however, because there has been an obvious air of self-righteousness to the news of the cover-up, usually accompanied by some version of “Why on earth didn’t he report…” or “I would never fail to stop…”

    Before I wade into this swamp, let me get…

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    Grace in the White House

    We live in divided times, politically speaking. No doubt the readers of and contributors to Mockingbird have strong and varying opinions about politics, and about presidents past and current. Fortunately, this is not a political post. In spite of our real and sincere differences, surely we can all recognize the light of the Gospel poking around – God moving over the waters, if you will – even in the high places of power. Who knows, we might even catch of a glimpse of grace in action.

    Tim Goeglein was Deputy Director of the Office of Public Liaison under President George W….

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    Identity, Expectation and the Run-First Quarterback

    A couple of fascinating articles about the pressure on NFL quarterbacks have appeared in the last week.  First off is this piece from CBS Sports columnists Gregg Doyel.  Unusually even-tempered for the typically aggressive Doyel, the column is loaded with talk of expectations vs. talent, a specific football analogy for the broader study of identity in light of the law and grace dialectic.  At issue is the persistent tendency of  NFL teams to draft uber-talented run-first quarterbacks only to then require them to be traditional, drop-back pocket passers.  The column focuses in particular on overall number one draft pick Cam Newton…

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    Tom Waits Invites You to the Party

    I first ran across Tom Waits’ song “Come on Up to the House” not long after it was released, on the Grammy-award winning album Mule Variations. Occasionally an atheist friend would get a kick out of the jarring line “Come down off that Cross, we could use the wood.” The implication of course was that Waits was mocking the crucifixion, telling Christ that humanity had no need of His sacrifice. I’ve been listening to the song a lot lately, thanks in part to brilliant covers by the Delta Spirit and new bluegrass chanteuse Sarah Jarosz. A quick read of the lyrics…

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    Reid Buckley on Forgiveness and a Father’s Love

    From the December 20, 1970 issue of Life magazine.  James Buckley, of the famous Buckley family, was elected senator from the state of New York, and Life magazine dedicated an expansive profile to his prolific family.  Here is an excerpt from the piece, written by the youngest Buckley son, the author Reid Buckley.  It offers some insightful detail into William F. Buckley, Sr., the family patriarch, and a man of whom his children could clearly say that love covered a multitude of sins:

    “He could be severe.  “Reid, I’d like to see you in the Empire room after lunch.”  We trembled…

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