Hello friends. I’ve decided (finally!) to start a newsletter. I’m calling it Snakes & Ladders for the same reason I call my blog that: as I look at our cultural ecosystem I see some things getting better and some things getting worse, crazy ups and downs, unexpected reversals of fortune. I’m trying here to see what’s headed our way, and in the meantime cultivate some of the permanent things.

I take comfort from the well-attested fact that “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” but I try to pay attention to the serious weatherwatchers — writers like Warren Ellis, for instance, who rightly notes that people like him “are the early warning system for the culture.”

I also pay attention to lots of stuff that don’t fit this description. If you know me, you’ll know to expect here links to an assortment of reflections literary, musical, theological, and technological. (This newsletter will mainly, though not exclusively, be linkage.) In the final analysis, I am, like Seamus Heaney, “one of the venerators.”

I’m not on Twitter any more — which is one of the reasons I’m starting this newsletter — so if you are, could you please spread the word about this here thing? I’d be in your debt.

“If we are to believe Deborah Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, her father, Lord Redesdale, read only one book in his life and that was White Fang. ‘He loved it so much he never read another…. “Dangerous good book,” he used to say, “no point in trying any more.”’” — Arthur Krystal

What if the Thwaites Glacier goes bad?

What if our devices are making us constantly fatigued but we just don’t realize it?

“The composer is an instrument, and in order for the instrument to sound correctly, it has to be in order. One should start with this, not with music.” — Arvo Pärt

“Parochialism and provincialism are opposites. The provincial has no mind of his own; he does not trust what his eyes see until he has heard what the metropolis – towards which his eyes are turned – has to say on any subject. This runs through all activities. The parochial mentality on the other hand is never in any doubt about the social and artistic validity of his parish. All great civilizations are based on parochialism – Greek, Israelite, English.” — Patrick Kavanagh

“There is only one Muse; the comic Muse. Great poetry is always comic in the profound sense. Comedy is abundance of life.” — ibid.

And finally: if you haven’t bought my recent book The Year of Our Lord 1943, would you please consider doing so?