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    archaeologist of memory

    digging up the stories we forgot and retelling them through still photography, film, and the written word

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I do not hold a prestigious post in a Tier One university, but was once a finalist for a position at Fordham and was sort of considered for a job at a really good school in the Northeast that eventually went to a guy whose kid got a hug from the Pope. I ended up as Associate Professor of Theology in the Honors College at Baylor University, a title that only vaguely resembled my actual work there. A more representative assessment of that work comes from a former colleague, who said that I once delivered “the worst lecture in the history of Baylor University.” While at Baylor I occasionally looked at other jobs, as one with any sense in an iffy institutional situation would. Once I completely bombed an interview at UVA by mentioning the Eucharist and lentil soup in the same sentence, an episode that still haunts me and whose meaning still remains obscure. My first book bears a ridiculous title, which partly explains why no one read it. My scholarly work has been rejected by a wide range of some of the finest and most illustrious journals in the land, including Modern Theology, Poetry, and The New Yorker. The latter returned an unsolicited manuscript (circa 1997) submission with no note or letter but with a simple but thorough slash through the pages. For a decade I lived in Waco, Texas, a fact that I often had to explain to foreigners as not nearly as bizarre as it sounds but still pretty weird. I am married to Meredith, a rock star violinist who attended more elite universities than I did, and who refuses to pick up my dirty clothes off the floor, as this will teach me virtue. Hitherto, this strategy has been ineffective. We have four boys whose names are Henry, Charlie, Oliver, and George, although I am frequently confused about which person each name belongs to. I live in Asheville, North Carolina, where I write fiction and essays. I am currently preparing a manuscript for rejection by The Atlantic.


The Two Jameses, for The Bitter Southerner (14 June 2018)

Lynched but not Forgotten, on the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, for The Christian Century (4 June 2018)

The Unforgotten: On Michael W. Twitty’s The Cooking Gene, for The Millions (14 March 2018)

I wish I had the courage to ask my dad about his service in Vietnam: for Veterans’ Day 2017, for The Washington Post (10 November 2017)

How an ancient African saint helped me make sense of 9/11: on teaching St. Augustine’s City of God on the morning of September 11, 2001, for The Washington Post (11 September 2017)

The Punishment Pass: on the use of the Confederate flag in Quebec and Vermont–and Charlottesville, for The Bitter Southerner (17 August 2017)

I’d Like to Thank the Staff for Inviting Myself to Open Mic: for the Brevity Magazine blog (10 July 2017)

Tangled Up in Bob: on the uniquely American voice of Bob Dylan, for Commonweal (2 June 2017)

Hi! You are About to be Rejected from our Quarterly: on a strange pre-rejection notice for the Brevity Magazine blog (5 April 2017)

How a Nation Lost its Mind: a review essay on Nicholas O’Shaughnessy’s Selling Hitler for Los Angeles Review of Books (November 2016)

The Tree of Life and the Lamb of God: on Terrence Malick for The Other Journal (July 2011)

Johnny of the Cross: a eulogy for Johnny Cash for First Things (December 2003)

Dispatches from the Landcraft

Stories from a five-week family road trip in 2017 from North Carolina to Quebec and back, in an overstuffed Landcraft with two adults, four boys, one dog, six bicycles, and five violins.

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