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The Church of the East

From Web Exclusives

As you may be aware, several Christian churches in Kirkuk, Mosul, Basra, and Baghdad, as well as throughout the rest of Iraq, cancelled their festivities this past Christmas. Ever since the massacre of worshippers in Baghdad’s Church of Our Lady of Salvation last November … Continue Reading »

An Infinite Passion

From Web Exclusives

Atargatis, the “Syrian Goddess,” was a demanding mistress. For one thing, her priests (the galli) could win their way into her affections only by emasculating themselves. According to the De Dea Syria, attributed to Lucian of Samosata, any young man disposed to dedicate himself to her service in Hierapolis had to make this first and most extravagant oblation on one of her high holy days, in a fit of divine ecstasy … Continue Reading »

New Year’s Titanic Gods

From Web Exclusives

Since other writers on this site have already declared their indifference to or hostility towards New Year’s celebrations, I suppose I should avoid doing the same, if only for variety’s sake. The truth is, though, that my family never observed the day when I was growing up, and always made a point of going to bed well before midnight on New Year’s Eve… . Continue Reading »

A Forgotten Poet

From Web Exclusives

Aimé Foinpré (1841-1880) died a hundred and thirty years ago today (17 December), killed as he leapt from a second story window in Paris’ seventh arrondissement to escape the wrath of a jealous husband; he was dead even before the raven-tressed cause of contention had hastily gathered up her clothes and fled from the room… . Continue Reading »

The Abbot and Aunt Susie

From Web Exclusives

In the August/September issue of First Things , Matthew Milliner gave a delightful account of his visit to the Eastern Orthodox Monastery of St Anthony in Arizona’s Sonora Desert. At least, I quite enjoyed it”though, truth be told, I would have enjoyed it considerably more had it not included a brief exchange Milliner had with the monastery’s abbot … Continue Reading »


From Web Exclusives

The only thing I know that J.R.R. Tolkien and Salvador Dalí had in common—or rather, I suppose I should say, the only significant or unexpected thing, since they obviously had all sorts of other things in common: they were male, bipedal, human, rough contemporaries, celebrities, and so on—was that each man on at least one occasion said he was drawn simultaneously towards anarchism and monarchism… . Continue Reading »

The Mysterious Stranger

From the November 2010 Print Edition

Autobiography of Mark Twain:The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1 Edited by Harriet Elinor Smith et al. University of California, 743 pages, $34.95 This is the first volume of three in the exhaustive and unexpurgated edition of Mark Twain’s autobiographical papers. I phrase it that way . . . . Continue Reading »

Charity and Patriotism: Further Reflections

From Web Exclusives

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a column in which I took exception”humorously, I thought”to the popular American conceit of describing ours as the “greatest nation on Earth” (I proposed Bhutan as a worthier claimant to that title, though I had also toyed with arguing the case for Norway, New Zealand, or Fiji)… . Continue Reading »