On Loving Mine Enemies Through the Pandemic Advent

The fever was on us—if we can be honest with ourselves—long before the pandemic hit. It’s a self-fueling hatred, more firestorm than virus. Something in our hearts is the propellent. We all know it, and many of us have our scapegoats.

Redeeming John Updike

When it comes to close reading, people are my subject. Literature comes second, then paintings and conceptual films like the brief encounters of Cyprien Gaillard , Anna Mendieta , and Kimsooja I take beauty in doses, in and around human tasks.

The Embodied Word

For the past few months, I have made a practice of reading a portion of the Psalms daily. My goal has been to read—out loud if I can—one of the twenty kathisma, or traditional divisions of the Psalter that are observed in Eastern Orthodox monasticism.

Happiness, Something Little

A bee settled
on a rose petal.
It sipped, and off it flew.
All in all, happiness, too,
is something little.
Let’s memorize this poem. I’ll give you three minutes.

The Broken Bond of Eden: Q&A with Claude Wilkinson

“I view my tie to the South in general, and particularly to Mississippi, in a sense more akin to the much broader citizenry exercised in Derek Walcott’s poems. Of course, his work explores and expresses his West Indian heritage, but the poetry itself never seems bound to, or limited by, any circumstance of geography.”

Reading in the Time of Coronavirus

As we “shelter at home” during this pandemic, you might be wondering what to do with your involuntary down time besides binge-watching on Netflix. If you’re looking for what sense others have made of plagues and pestilence, I have a few bookish ideas.

Christ on Trial

Each Lent, my wife and I read Christ on Trial: How the Gospel Unsettles our Judgement, by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. This brilliant book is a close reading of the scenes in each of the four Gospels where Jesus is on trial before the authorities, as well as a close-reading of readers’ own hearts.

Close Reading: In my Life and in this Blog

Close reading is a way of engaging a text with special attention to its language, tone, techniques. It has gone out of favor lately, as ideological readings have taken over. We’ve named this blog “Close Reading” because we want to model and encourage an engagement with texts themselves: those we write and those we read.

Sounding Together: The Vision of Slant Books

Slant’s Publisher & Editor on why humanism remains a vital tradition–indeed, more urgently needed than ever in a time when politicization and ideology are reducing art to propaganda and groupthink–and how a book publisher committed to humanism and literary craft can help us learn how to “sound together.”

The Way Inward is the Way Outward:
Launching a Blog in the Midst of a Pandemic

This is not how we envisioned the debut of Close Reading, the new blog sponsored by Slant Books. Nor is this the post we intended to serve as the virtual champagne bottle that we would smash on the prow of our spanking new literary vessel. We took for granted that the launch would take place under “normal” circumstances.

Milton’s Scribe: Q&A with Thom Satterlee

“At one point, toward the end of the book, he tallies up his many lies and calls himself ‘God’s Liar.’ It’s unclear what he means by that title. Does he think of himself as having some sort of divine license to lie? Is he lying on God’s behalf, or with God’s approval? I’m not sure he knows why he calls himself ‘God’s Liar.'”

Outlaws and Outsiders: Q&A with Ron Hansen

“I tend to write about outlaws and outsiders, people who don’t fit in, who resist standard types and conventions. Many people in the arts seem to feel in a grandiose way unlike the so-called “common herd,” though I suspect everyone feels uncommon and just making-do.”