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On Hell or: is Plato There?

Americans are much less sure of the existence of Hell than of Heaven. Hopefully this is because they have had such glimpses of the Divine that Hell seem fuzzy to them. There seems, however, some chance that it is because they have become too nice to believe anyone is in Hell.In chatting with regular . . . . Continue Reading »

A Giver of Rings

Beowulf contains a great many lessons relevant to daily living. First, don’t go to sleep near the hero or the monster will eat you. Second, after you kill a monster don’t go to sleep before knowing whether the monster has a mother bent on vengeance. If you don’t take care, she . . . . Continue Reading »

25 Favorite Short Stories

In his Devil’s Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce defined a novel as “a short story padded.” This is an all too apt description. The inability to prune a story to its essential story is an unfortunate quality shared by many modern writers and the primary reason that bookshelves are filled with . . . . Continue Reading »

Tolstoy and Dostoevsky
(and Christ)

I have had this experience three times now, on three different occasions, in admittedly similar circumstances, but not similar enough to explain the coincidence: I am speaking from a podium to a fairly large audience on the topics of—to put it broadly—evil, suffering, and God; I have been talking for several minutes about Ivan Karamazov, and about things I have written on Dostoevsky, to what seems general approbation; then, for some reason or other, I happen to remark that, considered purely as an artist, Dostoevsky is immeasurably inferior to Tolstoy; at this, a single pained gasp of incredulity breaks out … Continue Reading »

Children’s Books, Lost and Found

Sometimes a book is in the canon of children’s literature just because the writing is so good. Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows, for instance, stands as the perfection of its kind: a prose of greeny gold, of summer recollected in autumn’s light. Rudyard Kipling, too, has the perfect sort . . . . Continue Reading »

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