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Literature

When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

When Life’s Gappers Get Your Goats

A good starting place for reading the stories of George Saunders might not be Tenth of December, but The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, a fable that is as appropriate for kids as it is for adults. The story centers around the seaside town of Frip, which consists of three families: The Ronsens, a husband and wife who look exactly alike, and have two daughters who stand very still; Bea Romo, a big, angry woman with two big, angry sons, all of whom are big, angry singers; and our heroine, Capable, and her father, who live in the red house closest…

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Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

Softening the Sting: Some Words From Falling Into Grace

In a particularly memorable chapter from his book, Falling Into Grace, John Newton (who’ll be speaking at our Fall Conference in Oklahoma City 10/28-29) opens with the story of “The Scorpion and the Frog.” You may already be familiar with the story, but I wasn’t, so I’ll run through it quickly:

The scorpion is looking for a way to cross the river, but, for obvious anatomical reasons, he’s having a hard time finding anyone willing to give him a ride. He asks the frog, who says, “No way, you’ll sting me!” The scorpion eventually cajoles the frog into giving him a lift across the…

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Grace and William Trevor’s Piano Tuner

Grace and William Trevor’s Piano Tuner

This comes to us from Mockingfriend, Larry Parsley.

William Trevor, the Irish master of the short story, opens “The Piano Tuner’s Wives” with words that could almost launch a parable. “Violet married the piano tuner when he was a young man. Belle married him when he was old.” In the story that follows, Trevor renders Belle’s jealousy of the departed Violet with dozens of deft brushstrokes.

The piano tuner, Owen, is blind. In his younger years, he was loved both by Violet and Belle. Owen chose Violet over the younger and more beautiful Belle, and subsequently Belle never married. During the four decades…

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The Blessing of The Cursed Child

The Blessing of The Cursed Child

A quick disclaimer before reading: I will be giving a positive review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I will, in the words that follow, go so far as to recommend Harry Potter fans read it. So there. If you’ve already decided that the seven books will be the only books, that you will never touch the apocryphal supplements that come via screen or stage, I will not call you a pureblooder…that decision, to close eyes, ears and hands to some idea of magical purity–that’s entirely your decision. A rather pretentious one, I’ll grant, but your decision nonetheless. Everyone…

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An Upholder’s Confession

An Upholder’s Confession

This one comes to us from friend and contributor Lindsey Hepler:

In her recent book about habit formation, Gretchen Rubin describes four types of people: obligers, rebels, upholders, and questioners. Without ever taking her short quiz, I already know which type I am: an upholder, through and through. Upholders, Rubin says, respond readily to outer and inner expectations. Basically, we are rule followers and rule lovers.

On the positive side, being an upholder often contributes to success in school, where being a good rule follower is essentially seen as the same thing as being a smart/gifted child. An adult tells us what…

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The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

The Seven Sacraments of Harry Potter

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, here is another essay from our new anthology of movie essays, Mockingbird at the Movies, available in print here and on Kindle here. 

Before anyone calls bluff on a Harry Potter essay found in a book about movies, let us first consider a fact about the Harry Potter movie franchise. As of July 2015, total movie sales for the eight Harry Potter films had almost surpassed total Harry Potter book sales, a ridiculous feat when you consider how much money that is (over $7 billion). And when you consider…

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Another Tribute to the Rev. Robert Capon

Another Tribute to the Rev. Robert Capon

Here is another fantastic reflection from Cody Gainous. 

I can’t remember where I first read the name Robert Farrar Capon — whether it was Mockingbird that led me to Capon or Capon that led me Mockingbird, I’m not sure. Classic chicken/egg scenario. But I can remember where I was when I heard that he had passed away. We are approaching the third anniversary of his death this September. That day, I was sitting on the couch in my tiny apartment, incidentally reading Between Noon and Three. When I put down the book and picked up my computer, the news came: Robert…

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Nonadaptation – Czeslaw Milosz

From the Polish master’s final volume of poetry, Second Space, brought to mind via Benjamin Self’s truly exquisite essay on the Impertinence of Beauty, ht KW:

41+5K2UvKRL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I was not made to live anywhere except in Paradise.

Such, simply, was my genetic inadaptation.

Here on earth every prick of a rose-thorn changed into a wound.
whenever the sun hid behind a cloud, I grieved.

I pretended to work like others from morning to evening,
but I was absent, dedicated to invisible countries.

For solace I escaped to city parks, there to observe
and faithfully describe flowers and trees, but they changed,
under my hand, into the gardens of Paradise.

I have not loved a woman with my five senses.
I only wanted from her my sister, from before the banishment.

And I respected religion, for on this earth of pain
it was a funereal and a propitiatory song.

A Button for the Unlovable: Corduroy as a Picture of the Gospel

A Button for the Unlovable: Corduroy as a Picture of the Gospel

This post comes to us from Blythe Hunt.

I would like to say that my reason for having hundreds of children’s books is that I have two small children; however, I owned most of these books pre-children, pre-marriage. I’ve always loved children’s books, and I am sure I’ll continue collecting even when my own children have moved on to Seamus Heaney and Mary Oliver (fingers crossed…).

In college, I wrote three senior theses (true confession!), and I continued my lit studies in grad school—I was hooked on finding deeper meaning in every piece of literature that came my way.

And then I had…

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Our Grieving Hearts and the “Great Impertinence of Beauty”  (Or, Can Beauty Save the World?), Pt 2

Our Grieving Hearts and the “Great Impertinence of Beauty” (Or, Can Beauty Save the World?), Pt 2

This is the second part of Benjamin Self’s reflection on beauty. Check out part one here.

“Is it true, prince, that you once declared that ‘beauty would save the world’? Great Heaven! The prince says that beauty saves the world! And I declare that he only has such playful ideas because he’s in love! Gentlemen, the prince is in love. I guessed it the moment he came in. Don’t blush, prince; you make me sorry for you. What beauty saves the world?”

— Ippolit, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot

I.

As I attempt to expand a little further on this whole theory that…

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Red Beard: Love Is Medicine

Red Beard: Love Is Medicine

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped put on last night’s screening of The Pawnbroker as part of our summer film series at the Avon Theater in Stamford, CT. What a wonderful night! We’ll be showing the third and final selection, Stars in My Crown, on Weds 8/24. On a related note, our recent book Mockingbird at the Movies, is now available on Kindle! To celebrate, we thought we’d post the first half of John Zahl’s closing essay on Red Beard, which many readers (ourselves included) have mentioned as a highlight.

 

Discussing Akira Kurosawa’s Red Beard (1965) in any detail is…

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How to Be a Person in a World of Divorce Delusions

How to Be a Person in a World of Divorce Delusions

I first ran across the name “Heather Havrilesky” back in 2011, when The New York Times Magazine published a column of hers comparing the tv shows Friday Night Lights and Glee. What she wrote knocked me flat, and formed the basis of one of our first posts to go (relatively) viral. Here was someone musing on our favorite themes in a national outlet, with a wit and compassion that we could only dream of mustering.

Since then, seldom a week has passed when I haven’t been on the lookout for her by-line. Because no matter what the topic, Havrilesky’s knack for…

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