Monday, March 10, 2008

In Praise of Joseph Bottum

One of the many strokes of luck I've had in life is having had the chance to meet many of my writing heroes--Andy Ferguson, David Grann, Matt Labash, Stan Lee. In a few cases, I've even been lucky enough to become friends with these studs. Jody Bottum is one such friend. Over the weekend, I finally had a chance to finish his piece in the latest issue of First Things, "The Judgment of Memory." It's not available online yet (unless you're a subscriber, and if not, shame on you).

It is one of the finest essays I've ever read--at once profound and lyrical. After finishing it last night, I sat still for a while simply drinking in its beauty.

In the afterglow, it occurred to me that for last two years Jody has written four of the best essays you'll ever see, beginning with "The Mad Scientists' Club," moving on to "When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano," and then "Death & Politics." All of this while editing one of the three best magazines in America. He's operating in rare air these days and people who love words and ideas should take note.

And if you somehow missed any of those pieces, well. Print them out, take them home, and go treat yourself.


Anonymous said...


You way overrate this guy's writing. I mean, like, can he start one sentence without a conjunction? "And I saw..." "But then I went..." Gimme a break. Mrs. Winjam told us this was bad writing back in fifth grade, and it still is. Andy Ferguson, he write good. Matt Labash, he write fine. Jody Bottum, he write dead.

Yours Sincerely,
A Faithful Reader

Anonymous said...

Jonathan, thanks for posting these essays. One of my favorite Bottum's stories has always been his Thanksgiving memoir, that I first read on The Weekly Standard, I believe, a couple years ago. There's a certain "gentleness" to his style. I wish I could do it!

Mike in Mississippi