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Perilous Directions

From the April 2020 Print Edition

Pity the satirist: He labors under a double burden. There is, first and foremost, the need to be funny. Whatever kind of laughter the satirist conjures—whether it be queasy or full-out—the jokes have to land. Comedians have no safety net, and the ground is hard-packed. Then there is the . . . . Continue Reading »

A Joyful Misanthrope

From the November 2016 Print Edition

Ninety-Nine Stories of Godby joy williamstin house, 168 pages, $19.95Joy Williams has often been celebrated, but it seems safe to say that her prose is more feared than loved. A master of the short story, a novelist nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and an essayist on environmental matters, Williams . . . . Continue Reading »

Cultural Anorexia: Doubting the Decline of Faith in Fiction

From Web Exclusives

When Dana Gioia’s essay “Can Poetry Matter?” appeared in The Atlantic in 1991, it galvanized a national conversation about the state of American literature and how creative writing was being taught, produced, and consumed by the reading public. Among other points, Gioia argued that poetry had become obscure, self-referential, and detached from common experience through the influence of university writing programs and trendy ideological nostrums. Gioia’s latest essay, “The Catholic Writer Today,” published in the December 2013 issue of First Things, bears a striking resemblance to his Atlantic essay on poetry . . . Continue Reading »


From the May 2005 Print Edition

The Finishing School by Muriel Spark Doubleday. 192 pp. $16.95 Muriel Spark, Dame of the British Empire, expatriate Scot living in Tuscany, has been practicing her peculiar brand of elegant satire for half a century. Approaching ninety, Spark has just published The Finishing School , her . . . . Continue Reading »

Sweet Sistine

From the October 2003 Print Edition

According to Giorgio Vasari, author of the monumental Lives of the Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Michelangelo was so secretive about his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that Pope Julius II, the patron of the project, took to donning disguises and sneaking in at night to catch . . . . Continue Reading »