Image: Paul Windle

The Sentient-Being Diet
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 31 December 2017

Two weeks ago I was reading a book by a brilliant writer whose life was cut short by melanoma — “Dying: A Memoir,” by Cory Taylor — when I noticed a weird little growth on the skin just above my heart. A weird little growth right where long ago I used to slather a baby-oil-and-iodine concoction as I sat on a dorm roof during my college years. A weird little growth that suddenly struck me as almost certainly malignant melanoma.

In the midst of a miraculous book, I tend to go overboard on empathy. I walk around inside a little bubble of mirth when I’m reading a really funny essay collection, and I carry a lingering sense of disquiet when I’m in the middle of an unsettling novel. If I read a memoir about dying, pretty soon I will believe I’m dying myself.  (more….)

Image: William Widmer for The New York Times

Christians Need a New Right-to-Life Movement
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 24 December 2017

At least since Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door in 1517, Christians have disagreed on what Jesus calls them to do in the name of faith. There are nearly 34,000 Christian denominations worldwide, a number that doesn’t account for American Christians — nearly one in six, according to a Gallup poll last summer — who belong to no denomination at all. (more….)

Image: Robyn Beck

The Raw Power of #MeToo
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 19 October 2017

A few years back, when there were still three teenagers in this house, I got a little wound up at supper one night and kept going on and on about the brilliance of a novel I was reading by an Irish-born writer. “I can’t believe you’ve never been there,” one of my sons said. “As much as you love this stuff, I can’t believe you’ve never been to Ireland or England.” (more….)

Image: Katherine Lam

Meddling With Monarchs
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 5 October 2017

Back in July, as I sat before the butterfly enclosure in my family room, waiting to see if maggots would emerge from a twitching monarch caterpillar clinging to the screen at the top of the cage, two thoughts occurred to me: Is the caterpillar suffering? And is this what obsession looks like? (more….)

Image: Chip Somodevilla

The Passion of Southern Christians
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 9 April 2017

NASHVILLE — In the world of apostolic betrayals, it’s Judas who gets the headlines, but the everyday believer is more apt to fall in line behind Peter. Coldly handing Jesus over to his death in exchange for 30 pieces of silver was an over-the-top, cartoon-level move, but Peter’s terrified denial of the man he believed to be the savior of the world? That one seems immensely human to me. (more…)

Image: Maddie McGarvey

Good Neighbors, No Politics
By Margaret Renkl
The New York Times, 22 October 2016

A few years ago an app surfaced on Facebook that could identify how many of your friends were liberal and how many were conservative. One of my real-life friends clicked the button to see how her Facebook list stacked up and was shocked by the result. “I had no idea I liked so many Republicans,” she said. No wonder she was surprised. Facebook is very, very good at tracking our political leanings—and at serving up more of what it has decided we want. (more….)

Un-Resolved: A Resolution to Stop Resolving to Lose Weight
By Margaret Renkl
Nashville Scene, 30 December 2015

The American ideal of reinvention, of becoming a new creature simply by deciding to be one, is both a delusion and a kind of seduction. It’s also a delusion I embrace, a deceitful seduction I fall for every time, despite the fact that for me — as for virtually everyone else — making New Year’s resolutions is an exercise in failure. (more…)

What E-Books Really Cost
By Margaret Renkl
Chapter16.org, 20 April 2012

The Justice Department rode in on a white charger last week to defend the American consumer from predatory pricing in the e-book market. The hitch? Justice wasn’t aiming for Amazon, the online goliath that’s selling e-books at a loss to drive sales of its Kindle e-reader (and create a de facto monopoly of the e-book market). No, the target is Apple and five U.S. publishers destined for extinction if Amazon realizes what looks like its ultimate goal: to become an entirely self-contained, in-house publishing industry—Amazon the agent, publisher, distributor, and bookstore. It’s hard not to wonder if, deep in the bowels of its corporate megalopolis, Amazon is beta-testing an e-author, too.