Archive | Writing

One of the world’s newest plays

At the Dramatists’ Playground in Greensboro last weekend, we created a play called Camelot Club where Arthur is an African-American ball-boy who beats the tennis pro, inheriting his job; Morgan LeFay, whose family founded the club, works her dark magic through her Twitter followers (and her old money);  Guinevere’s a nouveau riches naïf who wants to […]

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Disney lets you cultivate your geniuses.


As an occasional journalist, I love covering topics I know nothing about–although editors understandably want to pigeonhole writers so they have a go-to guy for music, another for sports, a third for coal-mining, or whatever. Part of it is that I place a high value on getting to learn new stuff, which is why my […]

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from Walt Disney's 1940 "Fantasia"

The Tree of Life

To enjoy a tale of Eternity in the context of time, you have to let go of your attachment to narrative.  Much of the heavily advertised new movie The Tree of Life struck me as a fun romp through a new age of computer graphics, something like the abstract expressionism of Fantasia on steroids. (more…)

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Sentenced to death

I’m trying a new litmus test for deciding whether to take up and read, as God suggested to Saint Augustine, and given that God does not speak to me with any real precision beyond the occasional eructation: I examine the first and last sentence of a volume, be it fiction or nonfiction. If I find […]

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Consensus candidate for Browning's speaker

Sorry, Duchess

I woke in the middle of the night wondering whether Robert Browning could have been thinking of the 16th-century composer Carlo Gesualdo (1566?-1613) when he penned his famous and much-anthologized dramatic monologue “My Last Duchess”. (more…)

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an account of the massacre

Consummatum est

In his final speech (1889), Jeff Davis told his audience of Southern college students, Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished–a reunited country. I find this strange and telling. […]

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Jean-François Millet

Keats on Sudafed

John Keats was in his early twenties when he wrote the sad, prescient sonnet that begins, When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain, Before high-piled books, in charact’ry, Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain… (more…)

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Plate VII, 1761

Prisons of the Imagination

I’ve been working on a story about prisons. As I investigate the history of crime and punishment in Western society, I’m struck by the influence of G.B. Piranesi’s famous renderings: everybody refers to these, cites them, uses them in a frontispiece. (more…)

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