Notre Dame Magazine Devotes Its Spring Issue to Goodness–With My Essay Leading the Way

The Spring issue of Notre Dame Magazine is filled with good things–literally. I’m pleased to say my essay, “Goodness Gracious,” is the lead piece, but it’s far from the only thing you should read in the issue.

The issue is packed with good writing and inspiring perspectives, including a lovely piece by a former student of mine, David Devine, on the beauty to be found in the simple act of taking his daughter to a nearby swing during the pandemic.

You can access the entire issue here.

“The Story Catcher” is a Best American Essays 2018 “Notable Essay” Selection

I just learned that my essay on Brian Doyle, “The Story Catcher,” published in the Autumn 2017 issue of Notre Dame Magazine is listed among the “Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction 2017” in Best American Essays 2018, edited by Hilton Als.

A piece by Brian called “Everyone Thinks that Awful Comes by Itself, But It Doesn’t,” published in the February 2017 issue of The Sun, was selected too.

It makes me very happy to see Brian honored in this way.

Utne Reader Republishes My Profile of Brian Doyle

In February, Kerry Temple, editor of Notre Dame Magazine, which had published my profile of writer and friend Brian Doyle in its Autumn 2017 issue, forwarded a message from Christian Williams, Editor-in-Chief at Utne Reader.  He had just read my “beautiful tribute” to Brian, Williams wrote, and wanted to reprint it in the Spring 2018 edition of his magazine.  The issue is now out, and my piece is on the Utne Reader website too, so if you weren’t able to read it before, you can find it here.

I recently wrote another Brian Doyle-related piece, this one about a theater director turning his beloved novel Mink River into a play.  It includes a chronicle of how Brian came to write the book.  It will go up on Oregon Arts Watch sometime in the next two weeks.

Working on a Brian Doyle Profile for Notre Dame Magazine

My dear friend and fellow writer Brian Doyle died at 60 on May 27.  Like many people who knew him or had simply read his marvelous books, I felt the loss deeply and wanted to remember him in some way, so I contacted Notre Dame Magazine, the alumni magazine for his alma mater, about writing a piece on him, focusing on his place in the Oregon literary community and at the University of Portland, where, over 25 years, he turned the alumni magazine, Portland, into one of the best magazines of any kind in America.

I’m collecting stories and thought about Brian for my piece now and will be writing it over the next couple of weeks, for publication in the magazine’s fall issue.  If you knew Brian or have had a profound experience with his writing, please send your stories or thoughts to me at

Here’s a link to one of Brian’s many astonishing essays, Joyas Voladoras, about the hummingbird and the heart. It was selected for Best American Essays 2005.

To see Brian talking about his writing and his life, view Oregon Public Broadcasting’s 2015 eight-minute ArtBeat feature on him here.

Review of PURE ACT in The Catholic Worker and Other Online Lax Posts

Peace activist Jim Forest, who has written biographies of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day, has published a warm and intimate review of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax in the latest Catholic Worker newspaper.  This review is especially pleasing to me because Lax was a great believer in the things the Catholic Worker stands for: peace and voluntary poverty in service to the truly needy.  Lax knew CW founder Dorothy Day and was a frequent guest at CW headquarters in NYC, where he once read his poetry (and I read from Pure Act back in September).  You can read the full review here:

My writing about Lax has been mentioned in a couple of other online posts:

  1. Prophetic Voices: Martin Luther – William Barclay – Robert Lax–written by Lawrence Birney, whose Pure Vision Foundation supports a number of great causes, including The Thomas Merton Prison Project (to which my publisher just donated four copies of Pure Act).

  2. The Pure Act of Robert Lax–a lovely meditation on living humbly in the moment by a blogger named Robert Sylvester, inspired by my essay on Lax, Poetic Man of God, in the Winter 2015-16 issue of Notre Dame Magazine.