While interviewing author George Saunders last week on the release of the audiobook of his new story collection, Tenth of December, my Skype connection cut out maybe four times. Such a miserable and embarrassing development on so many levels—maybe the worst being that Saunders is one of the best talkers I've ever met, and in the middle of this incredible riff his voice would just float and burble off, culminating in that awful, plopping Skype disconnection sound. Indescribable, like getting a long letter from Oscar Wilde and someone sets fire to it as you're reading, or you've just been poured a delectable glass of Château d'Yquem and suddenly there [...]
About two months ago I started reaching out by email to a group of people whose lives I wanted to know about and understand: The Trappist monks of Oka Abbey, in Quebec. Oka Abbey is the oldest Trappist monastery in North America. A century ago, it was a powerhouse; but in recent decades, the community had dwindled to a fraction of what it used to be. After leaving the Abbey to a heritage group, to be preserved as an historical site, the remaining monks relocated to a smaller retreat in the mountains north of Montreal.
Even if you're not Catholic, you may have heard of the Trappists. They’re [...]
"Only if they asked." —Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno on the likelihood of his baptizing an alien, a question that came up after he talked about his sci-fi-borne love of the stars and noted to reporters in the UK that "any entity — no matter how many tentacles it has — has a soul." It would seem that he's even including the "narrow group of creationist fundamentalists in America" that he railed against elsewhere in his Q&A session in that soul census, which reads like something of a relative olive branch.