The Touchstone Effect

Everyone should have a copybook of maxims. So I tell my students at the start of freshman year. “You will meet priceless bits of wit and wisdom in the next eight semesters—write them down and tap them often.” They hear it as bad advice, though. Don’t they have enough to do already? But the . . . . Continue Reading »

From a Vanished Library

The library in question is not the Great Library of Alexandria, but it is every bit as much a thing of the past, existing now as scarcely a memory—almost legendary, positively Edenic. I think it had been my ambition throughout much of my life to accumulate a collection of books in the ideal, . . . . Continue Reading »

The Devil and Hilary Mantel

By now, everyone who reads contemporary fiction will have heard of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed historical novels about Thomas Cromwell, the powerful advisor to Henry VIII who all but single-handedly disestablished the Catholic Church in England. Anathema to many . . . . Continue Reading »

What the Novelist Knows

The novelist and diarist Julien Green described in his diary a conversation he had with a French priest, a Fr. Couturier, about the novelist’s necessary complicity with evil: If he is a believer, the difficulty begins when he sits down at his table to write, for he is obliged to become each one of . . . . Continue Reading »