The Real Reason So Many Christians Make Bad Art, or How I Learned to Love the World


During the past year or so I’ve become utterly engrossed in the TV series Friday Night Lights.

No one in my family expected this. I’ve never liked football; if you asked, I’m not sure I could tell you what a yard line is. (That’s a thing in football, right?). And it’s a show about rural Texas, a place I spent a good portion of my youth trying to escape.

There are no wizards or magicians, no real mysteries, and only a couple of murders (in the widely panned second season, which I’ve mostly avoided watching). In other words, none of the elements that usually draw me into a show and sustain my attention over four or five seasons.

What it does have, in spades, is detail. When she was reviewing the first season for the AV Club, Sonia Saraiya smartly noted, “The show is almost impossibly rich with detail… what makes Friday Night Lights evergreen is how detailed and authentic the production is.”

That sense of detail was what hooked me during the first season, far more than the high school drama between Tim, Jason, and Lyla, or wondering whether Jason would ever walk again. I had never seen a show that so perfectly captures what it’s like to grow up in Texas. (Among recent movies, only Boyhood comes close). Again and again the show gets it right on the smallest levels—the late-night runs to Whataburger, a fridge full of half-eaten barbecue, a screen door looking out on a back porch that’s just a single slab of concrete with a potted aloe vera plant. The writers clearly did their research. I felt like I was watching a documentary about my hometown.

Ever since I left the weird cult a few years ago I’ve had this peculiar hunger. It’s a hunger for something I didn’t have as a child, and that’s a passionate curiosity to know the names of things, to know what things are. It’s a hunger to know the world, to rub the back of my hand against it and feel its texture.

Maybe it’s a writer thing, but lately, when I read a book, it’s not enough for me to know that a tree was climbed. I want to know more about this tree: was it a cedar? An oak? An elm? Did it have fruit or nuts? Is the street on which the heroine and the giant centipede are fighting made out of stone blocks or asphalt? Because I don’t think I can be fully invested in this fight unless I know what the street is made of.

In my newfound fascination with things I started a notebook where I listed every interesting detail in the books I read and the movies I watched—a list that ran for hundreds and hundreds of pages: types of clothes; types of food; different architectural styles; dances of the Regency era; types of trees found in West Texas. Things I had never paid attention to before I joined the cult had now become the only things that could hold my attention.

When I was young, growing up in a fundamentalist church, this kind of absorption in the world was discouraged. “Love not the world, nor the things in the world,” was a verse that got thrown at me a lot (and is still thrown at me, on occasion). In the twisted interpretation of faith that my mom practiced, the world was just a coded symbol waiting to be deciphered, full of mysterious numbers and coincidences and patterns. This wasn’t a world that could be known or loved, but one that could only be decoded.

And I think that lack of engagement with the world can actually starve a child. It’s a form of spiritual malnourishment that leaves us grasping and impoverished. In one of his novels Jasper Fforde mentions how the lengthy descriptive passages in The Lord of the Rings can nourish a person spiritually. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that within my cult, descriptive writing was preached against as if it was some kind of sin.

But now I’m finding that description, when it’s done well, doesn’t have to be flowery or purple. Description is just another word for the naming of things as they are.

So lately as I’ve been paying attention to things and asking questions, it feels like I’m reclaiming part of myself. At heart I’ve always been a person who’s absolutely obsessed with detail, but such fascination is anathema in a religious environment where the world is a place you’re trying to escape from.

And the reason so many novels marketed to Christians fail at the most basic level is because they don’t name these things, because their authors don’t know those things, because they’ve never taken to heart the advice of Rich Mullins and learned the names of birds and plants, the names of the constellations, the difference between a tulip and a redbud.

With a few notable exceptions (Rich Mullins among them—who could forget the moonlight spilling laughter on the cold Dakota hills?), Christian culture has lost the art of paying attention to things. Open one of the Left Behind books at random, for example, and notice how lovingly the authors describe their weaponry and telephones, but what scant attention they pay to anything else—the natural world, what people look like, how people actually talk. Then contrast that with someone like Flannery O’Connor, whose every line conveys an understanding of the place in which she lives and the people who live there: an intensely religious woman in one story has “the look of someone who has achieved blindness by an act of will and means to keep it.” (One gets the sense that the Catholic Flannery knew her white Southern Protestant culture better than it knew itself).

And I think what ultimately separates good writing from bad writing, and good ideologies from bad ones, is the permission to be curious, to be utterly fascinated with the beauty and the horror of the world and the million small things that make it so beautiful and horrible. I don’t want to be part of your religion if your religion has no time for gelato or prosciutto or Michelangelo. I’m not interested in your justice movement if you’re not interested in hearing me rave about velvet pelisses and candied hibiscus flowers and green bean casserole with deviled eggs.

Because in the end, the naming of things has a sacramental power. It puts us in touch with the things themselves, and things—material things, the stuff of this good earth—are signposts pointing us to God. That doesn’t mean we have to love them for that reason. But they carry the divine spark because they come from the divine hand, and if we allow ourselves permission to love things, we may eventually find ourselves falling in love with God.

Christians, It’s Time to Leave The Republican Party


Joe Raedle / Getty Images

“Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins.”

— Revelation 18:4

If you’re a white Evangelical Christian who came of age in the early 2000s, you’re probably used to thinking of the GOP as God’s Own Party.

If you were a dedicated churchgoer in a white Evangelical church, you would never consider voting for a Democratic candidate. Democrats were liberals who supported safe sex and abortion on demand; the Democratic president was caught in a sex scandal with one of his interns. They had no values. They weren’t really Christians, though they sometimes used the language of Christianity to deceive us.

Republicans, by contrast, were the party of faith. They believed in God, family, our country, and our military. When George W. Bush was asked to name his favorite philosopher during a townhall meeting in 2000, he said without hesitation, “Christ, because he changed my heart.” He was mocked for this answer by the godless media, but it resonated with countless men and women in the heartland who had never heard of Voltaire or Rousseau.

I was a staunch Republican until late into my teens. I supported the invasion of Iraq (at least until the actual bombing started) because I thought Bush had been chosen by God to lead our country and reshape the Middle East. During my first semester in college I picketed an abortion clinic and wrote an article for the school newspaper making fun of Democrats like John Kerry for trying to speak the language of faith. I described the 2004 election as the most important election of our lifetime, and Bush’s reelection as a stunning repudiation of the liberal elites who defended Islam, immigration, and sex on TV.

When an English teacher I respected—one of the few outspoken liberals in our small, conservative town—asked me why I supported Republicans, I said, “Because they have morals!”

I was surprised she even had to ask.

But something happened early in Bush’s second term. I think the first blow was the revelation that our Christian government was running secret prisons and torture sites in foreign countries. Somehow it was hard to picture Jesus forcing a man to stand on broken limbs for days without sleep. It was hard to picture him approving the crushing of a child’s testicles.

I learned about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, how it drove white Southerners afraid of blacks into the arms of the Republican Party. I learned about Richard Nixon’s “Southern strategy” to woo those disaffected white voters with coded language like “tough on crime” and “law and order.” I learned how whites turned out for him in record numbers because they understood the subtext buried in these words, that he was going to make life harder for people of color like myself.

I began to understand why the Republican Party was overwhelmingly white.

Here in Texas, especially, it’s been clear for some time that white Republicans aren’t driven by some high-minded adherence to conservative principles. Partly it’s a religious thing: Republican voters are driven by their faith to vote for Republican candidates.

But it’s something else, too. George W. Bush was very clear that the war on terror was not a war against Muslims. But I can tell you that’s not how it was perceived in the heartland. Millions of people supported him in his bid for reelection because they believed he was going to make war on the whole Middle East and defend our land from the savage hoards who wished to destroy us and our way of life.

In the ‘60s the GOP became the haven for people who were afraid of blacks. In the 2000s it wooed those who were afraid of Muslims and Arabs and Hispanics. Each of those groups, in turn, left the Republican Party, because it was clear to them, long before it became clear to the rest of the country, that something incredibly dark and toxic had taken root in the heart of God’s Own Party.

All of this has been happening for years. Decades, even.

But if you had tried to point that out before last year—pointed out that the GOP has become the party of racists, hatemongers, and authoritarians who want to torture and kill brown people in grisly fashion—it would have been a tough sell. Most mainstream Republicans were still too committed to the idea that their party is the party of God, the party of family and faith and freedom.

And then Trump happened.

Trump happened and now the GOP has officially become the party of the alt-right and anti-Semites and anti-feminists and “every unclean and hateful spirit.”

Trump happened and now suburban Republicans and conservative intellectuals and even Republican politicians are abandoning the party in droves because they no longer recognize it. Because they hate what he’s done to it.

But maybe we should be grateful for Trump.

Because he’s exposed the truth that’s been obvious to our black and brown brothers and sisters for years, back when they were lone voices crying in the wilderness and no one would listen.

Because even when it wraps itself in the mantle of faith, no party that is rooted and grounded in white supremacy is a Christian party.

Because regardless of its views on abortion, no party that promotes torture and black sites and the gutting of welfare and endless bombings of other countries is a pro-life party.

This has always been true. Trump has just awakened us to it.

So Christians, maybe it’s time for us to leave the Republican Party. Maybe it’s time for us to admit, with Rich Mullins, that all governments that are controlled by men are “anti-life and anti-God.”

To admit that a vote every four years for abortion isn’t worth continuing to prop up a party that is now defined by white nationalism and terrifying, murderous rage against anyone who isn’t white, and male, and Christian.

To admit that when the veil was lifted, Donald Trump was revealed to be the true face of the Republican Party. And he has been all along.

How to Tell if You’re in a Belle & Sebastian Song

the-bbc-sessions-520da3ea5629eYou have zero interest in getting married unless it would help save a nice girl you met at a party from having to go back to Ukraine.

You work in the acquisitions department of a small independent book shop, but dread your nightly walks home through the park for reasons that are not entirely clear.

You told your homeroom teacher you were tardy because your judo class ran over, but in fact you heard a Hammond organ playing somewhere down the hall and had to investigate. You met a handsome, bookish stranger and sang a duet with him, but left without getting his name.

It’s your last year of high school and you cope with the stress of family life by pretending you’re the lead singer in a band called Belle & Sebastian.

You are quietly mesmerized by a patch of winter sunlight.

You were inspired when your sprightly friend let down her hair and danced at a concert, so much that you wrote about it in your diary for a month, but have never actually danced yourself.

You work in a nail salon, you’re always late to parties and you’ve crashed your car twice in the last month. You’re in love with a girl across town who doesn’t know your name. (Her name is Belle).

You once spent an entire day being inexplicably happy and have devoted the rest of your life to finding out why.

Right now you’re wearing a striped scarf, a woolen jacket, and argyle socks. You have a friend of the same sex who’s wearing a cashmere cardigan. You might or might not fancy them.

You once contemplated murdering a stranger who spoke to you on the subway.

You had a small outburst in the café when you realized how old you’re getting. You’re sixteen.

You missed the train and now you’re standing at the station all alone. But it’s late autumn and the world is lovely around you.

Ted Cruz Wants You to See Him as a Biblical Hero

chip somodevilla, getty images

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Well, that was really something, wasn’t it?

 Last night, on the third night of the Republican National Convention—a night that’s historically served to showcase the vice-presidential candidate—Senator Ted Cruz got up and spoke at the Quicken Loans arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

But rather than endorsing one-time opponent Donald Trump, as he was widely expected to do, Cruz “congratulated” him once and spent the next twenty minutes pointedly talking about other things.

The crowd was into it, until they weren’t. Towards the end, as Cruz’s defense of individual liberty slyly segued into a plea to “vote your conscience” in November, the Republicans in attendance realized that he had no intention of endorsing a man who had called his wife ugly, who had suggested that his father was involved in JFK’s assassination.

That was when the crowd lost it. Viewers watching at home were treated to the spectacle of Ted Cruz leaving the stage to a deafening chorus of boos and yells. By some accounts the scene in the arena was even worse than it looked on TV. The former attorney general of Virginia had to escort Cruz’s wife out of the building for her own safety.

It was another weird twist in what has become the strangest election of our lifetimes.

Cruz succeeded in beating Trump at his own reality TV game. Today on the fourth and final day of the convention, his act of defiance in the arena last night is the only story anyone’s talking about. At a breakfast this morning Cruz admitted that he was driven by personal animus: “I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father.”

There’s been some debate in the twittersphere and the media about whether this helps or hurts Cruz’s chances in 2020. At the very least it seems to have raised his esteem among non-Trump supporters. Even people who haven’t had a kind word to say about him in the past were forced to admit he made a gutsy move last night.

As Todd VanDerWerff pointed out on Vox, Cruz was using classic storytelling tropes to create a moment of unforgettable drama. Somehow even the negative image of Cruz that most of us have—resentful, unloved, loathsome, a man despised by seemingly everyone he ever met—played into this.

It’s one of the most powerful narrative devices, and we’ve seen it used over and over in some of our best stories. The sad-sack, worthless loser whom no one ever loved suddenly redeems himself with an unbelievable act of courage.

It’s the story of Severus Snape, a man to whom Cruz has been compared before. It’s the story of Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities and Captain Renault in Casablanca.

But I have a suspicion that last night Cruz was going for something even more archetypal. Something… biblical.

Watching the end of Cruz’s speech, I kept wondering why his brazen act of defiance appealed to me on such a visceral level. I realized it was because I had grown up reading stories from the Bible about courageous prophets who stood their ground and refused to surrender their principles even when they were hopelessly outnumbered.

The parallels are especially striking given how rapidly the rest of the Republican party has surrendered to Trump. For me, and probably for a lot of people, the entire convention has been a nightmarish symbol of decadence, like the court of King Herod or Nebuchadnezzar.

And then Cruz marched in there last night and refused to kneel before the new pagan emperor. He refused to kiss his ring even though he must have known he was endangering his own safety.

It was a spectacle whose biblical echoes are legion. For a few minutes Cruz was Samson, “eyeless in Gaza,” trotted out by his rivals to be humiliated only to bring down the house on them.

He was Micaiah the prophet who spoke doom over Ahab when the 400 court prophets spoke victory.

He was Daniel in the lion’s den; Daniel’s three friends refusing to kneel before the hugest and classiest golden idol ever built.

I don’t know if those echoes were deliberately cultivated by Cruz when he planned that speech. But I know that I felt them, that they resonated. Whether he intended it or not, Cruz was playing directly to his base of social conservatives and Evangelicals without having to use words.

I’ve never been a fan of Ted Cruz, but what he did last night was a legitimately brilliant act of protest. One might even call it a prophetic act. Millions of Christians saw it. And they will not forget.

the 51 Cleverest and Wisest Song Lyrics of All Time

 keaneAfter carefully, bravely listening to every song ever recorded in any language, I have compiled an objective list of the world’s 50 greatest lyrics. This ranking is definitive. I will not heed your laments.

  1. “There’s so much beauty around us, but just two eyes to see:

but everywhere I go, I’m looking.” (Here in America, Rich Mullins)

  1. “I try to stay awake and remember my name, but

everybody’s changing and I don’t feel the same.” (Everybody’s Changing, Keane)

Keane wedded adolescent melancholy with U2-style hooks and won the hearts of awkward, sensitive teens everywhere.

  1. “Albert Einstein trembled when he saw that time was water

seeping through the rafters to put out this burning world.” (Lake Geneva, The Handsome Family)

The Handsome Family, a husband-and-wife folk country duo from New Mexico, deserve to be better known. Their lyrics combine Night Vale-style weirdness with realistic, Flannery-esque characterization. “Lake Geneva” describes a woman losing her husband to religious mania and mental illness while “raccoons in the darkness” drag off their hot dog buns. The story pauses briefly in the middle to discuss the nature of time. Somehow, it all works.

  1. “There is another world

there is a better world

there must be.” (Asleep, The Smiths)

For a band that often trafficked in sarcasm, the Smiths achieved a new threshold of greatness when they decided to go earnest.

  1. “You’ve been chosen as an extra in the movie adaptation

of the sequel to your life!” (Shady Lane, Pavement)

  1. “Walk till you run, and don’t look back

for here I am.” (The Unforgettable Fire, U2)

The creepiest Bono lyric ever. Play it on a dark road late at night and try not to be afraid that he’s walking behind you.

  1. “She’s well-acquainted with the touch of a velvet hand like a lizard on a windowpane.” (Happiness is a Warm Gun, The Beatles).

Ultimately I have to go with Paul as the better songwriter, but John’s hallucinatory turns of phrase were exquisite.

  1. “Yonder stands your orphan with his gun

crying like a fire in the sun.” (It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue, Bob Dylan)

Nothing about these lyrics makes any sense, and yet somehow they are… perfect? Dylan had gone deep into Rimbaud and the other great French poets when he wrote this, and it shows.

  1. “And you always had it, but you never knew.” (Flesh and Bone, The Killers)

Early Killers lyrics were biting and melancholy, but as they’ve matured they’ve included some uplift among the sass and sadness. People will break your heart, Brandon assures us, but they won’t break the fight inside of you.

  1. “We lived in the shadows

and we had the chance and threw it away

and it’s never gonna be the same

‘cause the years are falling by like the rain.” (Hello, Oasis)

Oasis is so rambly and self-indulgent that when one of their songs resonates, it almost seems like an accident. Yet Noel Gallagher is actually a master of crafting lyrics rooted in the deepest of human feelings.

  1. “We said we would never fit in

when we were really just like them;

does rebellion ever make a difference?” (So Long, Astoria, The Ataris)

This nostalgia-tinged ode to childhood and The Goonies is one of the better songs to emerge from the post-grunge era.

  1. “She says, like, literally, music is the air she breathes…

I wonder if she even knows what that word means,

well, it’s literally not that.” (The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apartment, Father John Misty)

Father John Misty’s lyrics are typically cleverer than they are good, but they are very clever.

  1. “Suspended clear in the sky are the words that we sing in our dreams.” (Let There Be Love, Oasis)

oasis4Oasis has been high for at least four or five albums, and at this point I don’t even think they realize they’re still recording music, but at least it’s given us some striking lyrics.


  1. “We know the true death, the true way of all flesh;

everyone’s dying, but girl, you’re not old yet.” (Step, Vampire Weekend)

The rare “memento mori” song that manages to both encourage and break your heart.

  1. “She said the hardest thing in the world to do

is to find somebody who believes in you.” (Sad, Sad Song, M. Ward)

  1. “Maybe you’ll find life is unkind and over so soon;

there is no golden gate, there’s no heaven waiting for you.” (Perfect Symmetry, Keane)

Keane addresses terrorism and religious extremism, suggesting that those who kill others in the name of God may not find heaven waiting for them. It’s also possible to read these lines as a lament for the hopeless dreams of one’s youth.

  1. Wilco_MassMoca_AustinNelson“You were right about the stars:

each one is a setting sun.” (Jesus, etc., Wilco).


  1. “Looking for evil, thinking they can trace it, but

evil don’t look like anything.” (Westfall, Okkervil River).

This is maybe the best song about a gruesome Austin killing ever written, St. Augustine by way of a murder ballad.

  1. “And in my best behavior I am really just like him;

look beneath the floorboards for the secrets I have hid.” (John Wayne Gacy, Sufjan Stevens)

The most chilling moment in Sufjan’s wistful song about a famed serial killer is when he turns the mirror on himself and us.

  1. “And I have used your unbelief to set them free

so die now, die now, My Judas.” (Iscariot, Bison)

This song seems to have disappeared from recent versions of the folk band’s first album, perhaps because Jesus seeming to taunt a dying Judas was too creepy for some tastes.

  1. “Got to be good-looking ‘cause he’s so hard to see.” (Come Together, The Beatles).

beatlesLike a good Simpsons joke, the best Beatles lyrics work on multiple levels.


[tie] 30. “Kathy I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping:

I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.” (America, Simon & Garfunkel)

[tie] 30. “Half of the time we’re gone and we don’t know where.” (Only Living Boy in New York, Simon & Garfunkel).

Many prefer the youthful poetic posturing of “Sounds of Silence,” but for my money these are their best and saddest songs.

  1. “They will never forget you till somebody new comes along.” (New Kid in Town, The Eagles)

The Eagles came dangerously close to writing the definitive statement on moving on and being forgotten by those you loved.

  1. “And now that it’s over I promise you I’ll go

and wander in the night, and never come home.” (Med School, Dry the River).

Dry the River understood better than most bands how it feels to be young and lost and weighed down by your mistakes.

  1. “I can’t stand all the things she sticks into her skin

like broken ballpoint pens and steel guitar strings:

she says it hurts but it’s worth it.” (Your Little Hoodrat Friend, The Hold Steady).

A single Hold Steady song contains more and sharper characterization than most novels. In a typically Flannery-esque touch, the song goes on to describe the woman’s two tattoos: one says, “Jesus lived and died for all your sins,” and the other says, “Damn right, you’ll rise again!”

  1. “It burns being broke, it hurts to be heartbroken,

and always being both must be a drag.” (Your Little Hoodrat, The Hold Steady).

Yeah, this is from the same song. I DON’T CARE.

  1. “Tuesday night at the Bible study

we lift our hands and pray over your body

but nothing ever happens.” (Casimir Pulaski Day, Sufjan Stevens)

This guitar-and-banjo song from Sufjan’s best album is a lot of things: a gently devastating portrait of bone cancer and first love; a Job-like deconstruction and reaffirmation of faith.

  1. “Now and then I’m wishing I’d never

let you let me disappear.” (Blue Skies, JayMay)

  1. “The trouble with talking is it makes you sound clever

and the trouble with waiting is you just wait forever.” (Here It Is, Over the Rhine)

It goes on: “There’s a love of excuses that plays in your mind // and makes the truth even harder to find.” The best part is, this is a CHRISTMAS song.

  1. “You go strolling through the crowd like Peter Lorre

contemplating a crime.” (Year of the Cat, Al Stewart)

But really, any line in this song.

  1. “Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact

but maybe everything that dies one day comes back.” (Atlantic City, Bruce Springsteen)

The rare song to make the resurrection sound like a warning.

  1. “Y’all don’t wanna hear me, you just wanna dance.” (Hey Ya! OutKast)

It’s a toss-up between this and “Nothing lasts forever // so what makes love the exception?” but I love the casual bleakness of this admission, in the middle of the most infectiously groovy dance tune of the 2000s.

  1. “While her disappointed sister looked on quiet as the snow

knowing well that those who know don’t talk

and those who talk don’t know.” (Goodbye, I! mewithoutyou)

On this album of animal fables, it’s the disappointed sister who sticks out.

  1. “On a Sunday morning sidewalk

I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned

‘cause there’s something in a Sunday

that makes a body feel alone.” (Sunday Morning Coming Down, Johnny Cash)

Johnny Cash was a Christian and a country-music legend, but it’s hard to imagine half his songs being played on country or Christian radio today.

  1. “Democracy is coming…

to the USA.” (Democracy, Leonard Cohen)

A Canadian singing about democracy one day coming to America might be the greatest trolling Leonard Cohen has ever done.

  1. “I was told the streets were paved with gold

and there’d be no time for getting old when we were young.” (The Dying of the Light, Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds)

In his recent, post-Oasis albums, Noel Gallagher has taken the trademark angst of his youth and transplanted it to middle age.

  1. “We’re burning down the highway skyline

on the back of a hurricane

that started turning when you were young.” (When You Were Young, The Killers)

I don’t know what this means. Friends have tried to draw it for me on the backs of napkins. I still don’t get it.

  1. “Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball.” (Champagne Supernova, Oasis).

See above.

  1. “There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away;

They haunt this dusty beach road in the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets.” (Thunder Road, Bruce Springsteen)

Bruce was so young, his dreams were so huge, this album is so perfect.

  1. “And if you think you see with just your eyes, you’re mad.” (The Model, Belle & Sebastian)

In this quirky tale of two blind people who find love at a party, Belle & Sebastian attained a depth that was rare even for them.

  1. “Climb on your tears and be silent

like a rose on its ladder of thorns.” (The Window, Leonard Cohen).

Leonard Cohen is and has been for many decades the world’s greatest lyricist. From the same song: “Oh, bless the continuous stutter of the word being made into flesh.”

  1. “Half the town are underground and half are halfway there

and we’re the only good ones left.” (Alarms in the Heart, Dry the River)

Over the last five years, the late, lamented Dry the River crafted a handful of perfect albums that managed to capture the apocalyptic angst of early Keane and The Killers.

  1. “Should rumor of a shabby ending reach you

it was half my fault and half the atmosphere.” (The Traitor, Leonard Cohen)

I could quote all of Suzanne or Famous Blue Raincoat, but I love this underrated gem from 1979’s Recent Songs.

  1. “I made a lot of mistakes.
    All things go, all things go.”
    (Chicago, Sufjan Stevens)

When you’re young, the fact that all things are passing away seems like a curse. The older you get, the more grateful you become.

  1. “Darkness fills the eastern sky and street lights stretch for miles

through the spring and the winter and the morning.” (Waiting for the Moon to Rise, Belle & Sebastian)

Whether they were sketching indelible characters or painting landscapes with words and music, Belle & Sebastian seemed to possess a beauty that was not of this earth.

  1. “Another head aches, another heart breaks

I’m so much older than I can take.” (All These Things That I’ve Done, The Killers)

All-These-Thing-That-I-ve-Done-UK-brandon-flowers-10567762-533-400Baby-faced Brandon Flowers penned this lyric when he was all of 22. With every year that passes it gets more relevant.

  1. “When I look at the television I want to see me

staring right back at me.” (Mr. Jones, Counting Crows)

Counting Crows missed a golden opportunity by not having Adam Duritz watching himself on TV in the music video.

  1. “Remember all the movies, Terry, we’d go see

trying to learn how to walk like the heroes

we thought we had to be.” (Backstreets, Bruce Springsteen)

As close to a personal anthem as I have (and the opening quote of my forthcoming book).

  1. “Sometimes I feel like it’s all been done

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one

Sometimes I want to change everything I’ve ever done

I’m too tired to fight and yet too scared to run.” (Stop for a Minute, Keane featuring K’naan)

We’ve all had those moments when we feel like the guys from Keane are the only ones who get us.

  1. “I’m not sure any of it mattered

but all of it was music.” (All of it Was Music, Over the Rhine)

There are those songs you only play once because their beauty breaks your heart.

  1. “We’re all gonna die.” (Fourth of July, Sufjan Stevens)

As Rainbow Rowell pointed out on twitter, it’s not even the saddest line on the album. The more I listen to it, the more I wonder whether it was meant to be sad at all.

Ranking Every Episode of Agatha Christie’s Poirot

poirot11“Agatha Christie’s Poirot” ran on ITV in the UK from 1988 to 2013. After an inauspicious beginning it grew to become one of the most consistent shows on TV, anchored by David Suchet’s definitive portrayal of the Belgian detective. Hugh Fraser’s bumbling friend Hastings and Philip Jackson’s no-nonsense police inspector Japp became equally iconic, and after viewing each of the 70 episodes filmed over 25 years the viewer is left with a deep sense of pathos. It’s similar to the feeling we get watching the Harry Potter films (both series darkened considerably as their protagonists aged), but with the added specters of old age and mortality.

Which is not to say the series isn’t fun! Even the weakest episodes are a treat to watch because of the fine clothing, period detail, and evocative music by Christopher Gunning. Christie’s mysteries are famously clever, but even when specific plot points elude you, you can easily turn off your brain and revel in the rich atmosphere. Perpetually underrated, it was one of the best shows on television throughout its run. It is my personal favorite.

The Worst

  1. The Labors of Hercules (Season 13)

The original book was cobbled together from a series of short stories Christie wrote. This episode retains elements of all those stories, plus one other story that was never adapted (“The Lemesurier Inheritance”). The result is an ungainly and at times incomprehensible mess.

  1. Taken at the Flood (Season 10)

The changes made in adapting “Taken at the Flood” for the screen exemplify the problems with latter-day Poirot adaptations. Whereas in the original novel, the villain’s only crime is murder, this episode makes him a kidnapper and church-bomber who performs forced abortions and kills 13 people. Still, a great performance by the lead actor, Elliot Cowan.

  1. Appointment with Death (Season 11)

The highlight of this episode is Tim Curry wandering around Mesopotamia searching for the head of John the Baptist. Whether you like that sort of thing will largely determine your feelings towards the rest of the episode, which teeters precariously on the line between inspired and absurd.

  1. The Clocks (Season 12)

Like The Big Four (see below), this is a rare Christie foray into the world of international espionage and intrigue. And, like that other adaptation of a spy novel, this one is convoluted, overly plotted and frequently difficult to follow.

  1. The Hollow (Season 9)

A woman is found holding a gun and standing over her husband’s dead body. At the risk of spoiling the ending, there’s not much of a mystery here. The original novel was highly praised for its psychological realism, but that sense of character failed to translate into a compelling 90 minutes of television.

  1. The Big Four (Season 13)

poirot12Atmospherics and one of the best-ever Poirot openings elevate this one slightly; sadly, the rest of the episode is largely forgettable.

  1. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (Season 7)

By removing the central conceit, this adaptation of Christie’s most-celebrated Poirot novel robs it of what made it great in the first place. What’s left is a conventional and disappointingly bland episode.

            *           *           *

The Mediocre

  1. Four and Twenty Blackbirds (Season 1)

Poirot took almost an entire season to find its feet, but “Four and Twenty Blackbirds” is the first season’s only true stinker, with a premise so convoluted that even after multiple viewings I still haven’t entirely worked out what happened.

  1. The Lost Mine (Season 2)

Agatha Christie stories with an Oriental flavor tend to be cliché-ridden or cringeworthy, and this one, featuring a seedy opium den and an American man disguised as a Chinese man, is a little of both. The worst episode of Poirot’s best season.

  1. Elephants Can Remember (Season 13)

Christie’s novel (one of her last) centers on a mysterious husband-and-wife murder-suicide and Poirot’s attempt to answer the question, “Which was the murderer?” The adaptation tries to spice the story up by adding a second murder and largely consigning the whole plot of the original novel to the background. The attempt is only partially successful, as this remains one of the sleepiest episodes of the show.

  1. Mrs. McGinty’s Dead (Season 11)

An old charlady is found dead in her home, struck down by a blunt instrument, and all signs point to her lodger being the murderer. After interviewing the man, Poirot is inclined to accept the jury’s verdict of “guilty,” until an unexpected discovery forces him to reevaluate. This episode is perfectly okay. The appearance of Ariadne Oliver livens things up a little, but otherwise it fails to distinguish itself.

  1. One, Two, Buckle My Shoe (Season 4)

One of the few Poirot novels that might have worked better as a short story, “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” finds Poirot investigating the death of a dentist who appears to have been murdered by one of his last patients. The solution is characteristically, perhaps overly, ingenious, but the episode itself is otherwise unmemorable.

  1. The Third Floor Flat (Season 1)

Another overly convoluted first season episode, this one involves four friends who accidentally stumble across a dead body while wandering the wrong floor of an apartment building.

  1. The Adventure of the Western Star (Season 2)

Not particularly noteworthy—how many times have we seen a robbery staged in part by the person who was robbed?—but it’s always fun to see Hastings acting bashful in the presence of a beautiful actress.

  1. The Incredible Theft (Season 1)

No murder is committed in this early episode in which Poirot must discover the culprit behind the theft of some important naval documents. While not a terrible episode, per se, it suffers from the cardinal sin of being dull.

  1. The Underdog (Season 5)

A fast-moving, if forgettable, mystery involving synthetic rubber and a murder victim who gave everyone he ever met a reason to murder him. There’s some great business involving Miss Lemon trying to hypnotize Poirot and Hastings.

  1. The Plymouth Express (Season 3)

Many of the hour-long episodes suffer from having to introduce a number of characters and solve a complicated mystery within a limited time frame. The difference between the short story and feature-length adaptations becomes apparent when watching The Plymouth Express, which was later expanded into the novel The Mystery of the Blue Train. The two plots are nearly identical, but Blue Train, simply by virtue of being longer and less compressed, is easier to follow.

  1. The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman (Season 5)

Season 5 saw expanded roles for Miss Lemon in a couple of stories, and in this one she falls briefly in love, much as Hastings would do in Season 6. Meanwhile, Hastings and Poirot investigate a mystery involving a fast car, a sheaf of stolen documents and a Siamese cat.

  1. The Adventure of the Clapham Cook (Season 1)

In the first episode of the series, Poirot reluctantly takes up the case of a woman whose cook disappeared suddenly. A cursory investigation reveals a criminal conspiracy involving 50,000 pounds in securities and an obvious disguise, a motif that will be encountered again.

  1. Murder in the Mews (Season 1)

Poirot and Hastings investigate the death of a woman by gunfire on Guy Fawkes’ night. Although this initially appears to be a straightforward case of murder made to look like suicide, Poirot’s sleuthing soon reveals it to be something much more interesting and diabolical.

  1. How Does Your Garden Grow? (Season 3)

Poirot begins his third season by solving the case of an old woman who was apparently poisoned, in the process demonstrating (like the Count of Monte Cristo before him) that attempted suicide is no way to evade justice when your crimes have been exposed by Poirot.

  1. The Million-Dollar Bond Robbery (Season 3)

The Poirot series always excelled at boat voyages, and while the details of this episode’s mystery are unmemorable, it gives us two great moments: Poirot boasting of his own stamina, just before being struck down by seasickness, and the addition of a new character (not present in the short story) who briefly attracts Hastings’ fancy.

  1. Triangle at Rhodes (Season 1)

“Don’t you think human beings seem to reproduce certain patterns?” a woman asks Poirot in this episode, which in many ways serves as a precursor to the superior Evil Under the Sun with its exotic location and murder-y conspiracy involving two constrained lovers.

  1. Problem at Sea (Season 1)

This boat-set episode elevates itself above other first season episodes by employing the nifty trick (which would be recycled several times in the series) of having Poirot suss out a murderer using a ventriloquist pretending to be the ghost of the victim. Suppress your inner doubts about how anyone could fall for this and what remains is a fitfully entertaining nautical romp.

  1. The Double Clue (Season 3)

“In my experience I have known of five cases of women murdered by their devoted husbands,” says Poirot early in this episode. “And 22 cases of husbands murdered by their devoted wives.” Yet the unromantic Belgian is not wholly immune to the charms of women, as this episode demonstrates. In the figure of the Russian emigré Countress Vera Rossakoff, Poirot meets his Irene Adler. poirot13

  1. The Adventure of the Egyptian Tomb (Season 5)

At first this feels like an episode of “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries,” with its excavations of a foreign tomb and ancient curses that Lemon and Hastings try to dispel through tarot cards and Ouija boards. But ultimately the show eschews the wild flights of fancy and campy Gothic melodrama of “Miss Fisher.” This is a competently made, if not particularly memorable episode about the frightening power of superstition.

  1. The Mystery of Hunter’s Lodge (Season 3)

A great wintry morning episode, though one that struggles more than usual to justify Poirot’s presence, and another where one character is obviously in disguise.

  1. The Dream (Season 1)

This is one of the better Season 1 efforts, and an early indication of the show’s potential. Poirot is extended a secret invitation to meet a wealthy industrialist, who is subsequently murdered. There’s the usual business with fake beards and imposters, though this episode offers a logistical angle that is lacking in many of the other stories.

  1. Wasps’ Nest (Season 3)

Poirot must talk a man out of committing suicide and murder in this surprisingly moving hour-long episode.

  1. Double Sin (Season 2)

There’s a whole subcategory of Poirot stories in which someone who comes to Poirot seeking the recovery of a stolen item turns out to have stolen it himself. It’s always more surprising when this trope doesn’t come into play. That said, hour-long episodes are often more memorable for their atmosphere than their mystery, and this one excels on that front.

  1. The Mystery of the Spanish Chest (Season 3)

Although Poirot regularly faces off against murderers and robbers, seldom is he placed in any personal danger. That changes in this episode, which sees his life threatened by a man with a mastery of swordplay.

  1. Dumb Witness (Season 6)

A classic manor house mystery, complete with a phony séance, an altered will, and two balmy old women who believe they can contact the world beyond. Elevated slightly by one of the most eerie and memorable deaths in the series.

  1. Murder in Mesopotamia (Season 8)

A celebrated archeologist’s wife is found dead, and each of the suspects has an airtight alibi. This episode telegraphs the identity of the murderer early on, but the central twist is so absurd and contrived that it strains credulity.

            *           *           *


  1. The Chocolate Box (Season 5)

This episode amounts to an hour-long flashback in which Poirot revisits one of his earliest cases, the mystery of a Belgian official who died of apparent heart failure. In the process, he ends up solving two murders.

  1. Sad Cypress (Season 9)

An intimate character study of an ill-fated love triangle, Sad Cypress has a cast of only four main characters (excluding Poirot himself). The law of economy of characters makes the murderer somewhat obvious, but the central love story between Mary Gerrard, Elinor Carlisle and Roddy Welman is still affecting.

  1. The Mystery of the Blue Train (Season 10)

Christie expanded “The Plymouth Express” into a novel with mixed success. The Poirot adaptation of Blue Train follows the original pretty faithfully, for better or worse. The most striking change is the elevation of Lenox, only a minor character in the book, into a close friend of Katherine Grey’s. Actress Alice Eve sinks her teeth into her expanded role. poirot14

  1. The Adventure of Johnny Waverly (Season 1)

Possibly the most lighthearted and inconsequential of all Poirot episodes—no one is even murdered—this one centers on the kidnapping of a young boy. You could probably guess the culprit by the end of this sentence, but that doesn’t make the ensuing adventure, or Poirot’s eventual exposure of a wicked scheme, any less fun.

  1. Yellow Iris (Season 5)

A man’s wife is murdered at a public dinner. Two years later, he hosts a second dinner in her honor and her sister suffers the same fate. This episode leans too heavily on a trick Poirot has used in the past to flush out a murderer, but does it in a stylish and clever way.

  1. The Kidnapped Prime Minister (Season 2)

From beginning to end, an exciting short story adaptation that sees Poirot teaming up with England’s leading politicians and detectives to locate the eponymous prime minister on the eve of an international conference. Features an unusually brutal ending for an early Poirot episode.

  1. Lord Edgware Dies (Season 7)

This adaptation suffers from a couple of problems that beset other Poirot adaptations: namely, that it’s hard to show one character disguised as another in a way that isn’t totally obvious (though it does better on this count than some others), and that the prominent inclusion of a seemingly random character in the first act sometimes gives too much away. On the other hand, even Christie’s original novel doesn’t try particularly hard to conceal the identity of Lord Edgware’s murderer.

  1. The King of Clubs (Season 1)

A movie producer is found dead in his home following an argument with a young actress. Poirot’s investigation uncovers long-buried family secrets and raises the question of when is a murder not really a murder.

  1. The Tragedy at Marsdon Manor (Season 3)

Christie had a habit of working fictional detective novelists into her stories, but rarely more ingeniously than in this spooky mystery in which Poirot must rely on the help of a mystery writer to solve the case of a man who appears to have been frightened to death.

  1. Dead Man’s Folly (Season 13)

This episode has a solid premise, a Devonshire “murder party” hosted by Ariadne Oliver, who fears that some of her guests are planning a real murder. Inevitably, her fears are vindicated. The cast of characters, expansive even by the standards of a Christie novel, includes two families (one that owned the estate before, one that owns it now), an architect, and a 92-year-old boatman who knows secrets. It also has one of Christie’s more ingenious plots, the cleverness of which becomes apparent on repeated viewings. Too bad Poirot’s twisted and out-of-character final line leaves a sour aftertaste.

  1. The Case of the Missing Will (Season 5)

About two-thirds of the way through this episode, after a woman has been pushed down an escalator and long-suppressed children are coming to light, Poirot turns to Miss Lemon and says, “I have a task for you.” What follows is a montage of Poirot’s longsuffering secretary browsing through libraries and generally being a detective and it is the greatest thing.

  1. After the Funeral (Season 10)

Try to keep your heart from breaking when the murderer reveals why he or she committed the murder at the end of this episode. A profoundly moving meditation on poverty and envy featuring a before-he-was-famous Michael Fassbender.

  1. The Theft of the Royal Ruby (or, The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, Season 3)

The lesser of the two Poirot Christmas episodes is still memorable thanks to its setting (an English country estate during the Christmas holidays) and one of Poirot’s more ingenious schemes for entrapping a murderer.

  1. The Affair at the Victory Ball (Season 3)

The short story is artfully constructed but this episode manages to improve on it, with a denouement taking place live on the air during a BBC radio production and a nifty murderer-catching trick involving a tossed statue.

  1. Hickory Dickory Dock (Season 6)

One of two Poirot novels centered on a boarding school or youth hostel, “Hickory Dickory Dock” has an impressively forbidding sense of menace and one particularly gruesome twist. However, the adaptation is marred somewhat by the music, which can’t help reminding one of the “Rita” story arc in Arrested Development.

  1. Dead Man’s Mirror (Season 5)

A man to whom Poirot lost an antique mirror at auction is found dead in his study. Meanwhile, his wife believes she’s hearing the voice of an ancient Egyptian spirit. This episode has a genuinely spooky finale and some of the best lighting and set design in the series, while Hastings takes his catchphrase-slinging to new heights.hastings

  1. Murder on the Links (Season 6)

A morbidly funny mystery centering around a man found dead in an open grave on a golf course, a grave he had apparently dug himself, “Murder on the Links” features a tense altercation between Poirot and a French detective who resembles G. K. Chesterton, and, memorably, Hastings’ first encounter with the love of his life.

  1. Cards on the Table (Season 10)

Poirot and Madame Oliver are invited to the home of a wealthy and elegant Syrian art collector. Halfway through dinner their host keels over fatally. As it happens, four of the guests are detectives, and together they set about investigating the other guests, each of whom is revealed to have been involved in a long-ago crime. It’s a clever premise that illuminates one of the major themes of Christie’s later works, how “old sins cast long shadows.”

  1. Three-Act Tragedy (Season 12)

poirot15Poirot attends a party at which the host dies while drinking a cocktail. A month later, at another party attended by most of the same people, a second host is killed in a similar manner. This stylish adaptation has one of the more ingenious methods of concealing murder in the Poirot canon. Poirot’s method of confronting the killer and explaining the murders is particularly satisfying, and Martin Shaw is luminous as the multilayered Sir Charles Cartwright.

  1. Third Girl (Season 11)

When a young woman comes to Poirot seeking help for a murder she “might have” committed, the aging detective calls on his old friend Ariadne Oliver. Plotwise this adaptation considerably improves on the novel, a soporific late-period Christie with little discernible action. It also features the great character Sir Roderick Horsfield, memorably played by Peter Bowles. poirot16

  1. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (Season 6)

When the rich and despicable estate owner Simeon Lee is found dead in a locked room on Christmas Eve, his entire family comes under suspicion. Poirot and a local detective uncover a tortuous family history fraught with malice and revenge.

  1. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Season 3)

It took three seasons for the show to adapt Christie’s first novel, which reveals how Hastings and Poirot met and became friends while investigating the death of an old matriarch who had recently married a much younger man. This adaptation closely follows the novel, which bears some striking structural similarities to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

  1. Cat among the Pigeons (Season 11)

A late-period Christie in which Poirot investigates the theft of jewels belonging to a crown prince and a series of murders at a girl’s boarding school. The change of murder weapon gives this adaptation one of the series’ most memorable deaths. It also features a surprise appearance by Anton Lesser, my favorite reader of audio books, in a prominent role.

  1. The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim (Season 2)

A middle-aged banker disappears and Poirot makes a bet with Japp that he can solve the case within a week without leaving his apartment. Memorably features a parrot and one of the show’s best-ever exchanges (between Poirot and the man who delivers the parrot). poirot17

  1. The Adventure of the Cheap Flat (Season 2)

The first episode of Poirot I ever saw, this episode works as a terrific introduction to the world of the show with its elegant ladies, debonair men, foggy London parks, slender champagne glasses, sultry torch singers and Art Deco-inspired apartment buildings. Plus, there’s an intransigent police detective with a preposterously flat American accent and an exciting gun battle. I’d recommend starting here, or with any of the other excellent Season 2 episodes, before attempting the uneven first season.



  1. The Jewel Robbery at the Grand Metropolitan (Season 5)

While Poirot and Hastings are vacationing in Brighton, they encounter a theatrical couple who have proudly cast a string of rare pearls in their next production. Inevitably the jewels go missing. In one of the show’s funnier subplots, Poirot is constantly mistaken for a newspaper personality known as “Lucky Len.”

  1. Death in the Clouds (Season 4)

poirot18An old woman is murdered on a commercial flight; a search of the plane turns up a dead wasp and a blowpipe. This airy confection of an episode, which volleys between London and Paris, gains strength from its conclusion in which Christie uses our knowledge of the Christie formula to trick us. The moment we think the case has been solved, it opens up anew in brutal fashion.

*           *           *



  1. Hallowe’en Party (Season 12)

Mystery novelist Ariadne Oliver attends a Hallowe’en party where a young girl is murdered while bobbing for apples. This spookily gorgeous adaptation follows Christie’s original with only minor alterations and features one of the best twists in the series, one that would later be used to good effect in Veronica Mars.

  1. The ABC Murders (Season 4)

A serial killer is on the loose, moving from town to town murdering people according to an alphabetical system. Meanwhile, a nervous, friendless, and socially awkward man keeps blacking out, and begins to fear that he might be a murderer. It all builds to a single one-on-one conversation in a jail cell, and one of the most affecting scenes in any Poirot adaptation.

  1. The Cornish Mystery (Season 2)

When a middle-aged woman tells Poirot that she fears her husband is trying to poison her, Poirot and Hastings set out for Cornwall. The first episode in the series to perfectly nail the Poirot formula, “The Cornish Mystery,” with its trains, carriages and quaint seaside villages, is a richly atmospheric thriller and terrific rainy-day viewing.

  1. The Veiled Lady (Season 2)

This 50-minute episode is iconic thanks to a plot that sees Poirot and Hastings breaking into a house in order to obtain evidence, and a denouement involving two murderers hidden in a museum trying to fend off a cat.

  1. Five Little Pigs (Season 9)

The first episode of the “new” Poirot series also has the distinction of being the most beautiful, with a flashback structure that avoids being overly complicated and a tragic history that picks up emotional weight as we see the sins and mistakes of the past casting their shadows into the present. An initially disturbing but ultimately very moving story of deceit, betrayal, violence and a single redemptive act of unbelievable courage.

  1. Murder on the Orient Express (Season 12)

A suitably atmospheric adaptation of the celebrated snowy train mystery in which every passenger (Jessica Chastain among them) has an apparent motive for the murder. Poirot is pushed to his limits, morally and emotionally, in a case that anticipates the temptations and dark ethical compromises of the final season.

  1. Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case (Season 13)

Elderly Poirot and Hastings return to Styles, the scene of their first mystery, for one last adventure. This exquisitely scored and directed finale lands its punches by calling into question everything we’ve learned about Poirot in the previous thirteen seasons: is he mortal? Is he good? Is his mustache even real? Like death itself, it is a cleansing fire, leaving us steeped in melancholy and a profound nostalgia. “They were good days,” indeed. poirot

  1. Death on the Nile (Season 9)

A newly married couple taking a river-voyage through Egypt learns that they’re being stalked by a jealous woman nursing a broken heart. But not everything is what it seems and the final scenes, in which Poirot reveals a conspiracy most intricate, are both intellectually thrilling and emotionally poignant. Also features Emily Blunt in one of her first roles.

  1. Evil under the Sun (Season 8)

Evil under the Sun isn’t the most perfectly plotted Poirot story Agatha Christie ever wrote, but it’s close. There are so many twists and surprises in the last half-hour of this adaptation that to say anymore would risk spoiling it. Like Death on the Nile, this story of tangled love in an exotic locale begins with a seemingly ordinary premise (a woman who has numerous enemies is found lying dead on a beach) that becomes more layered and disturbing with each new revelation.

  1. Peril at End House (Season 2)

poirot6The first novel to be adapted into a feature-length film is also one of the definitive Poirot adaptations, featuring an old estate in the country, a wealthy but vulnerable heiress and a series of disturbing murders. This episode is everything that makes Poirot great distilled into 90 minutes, including an ingenious method for catching forgers, one of the all-time great line readings—“You’re all so… STUPID!”—and a conclusion that sees Poirot, Hastings, Inspector Japp, and Miss Lemon eating ice cream on the beach. The way all mysteries should end.



U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at Clinton Middle School in Clinton

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event at Clinton Middle School in Clinton, Iowa January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Barria – RTX24QAB

Fellow Americans, hold me for a minute.

Because I officially CAN’T with this election.

I think each of us has had a moment in the last ten months where we felt like we were living in the greatest, weirdest reality show ever staged. A reality show that we were all watching, and all part of, and that for once might live up to the hyperbole about being “the most important election” in the history of ever.

It was very surreal, because the race was being dominated at every turn by a cartoonishly rich, orange-haired, orange-skinned human with a habit of bragging about himself and a gift for trolling the media.

At least once a week, the glamour that he had cast over all of us would fade for a minute and we would remember how weird this is, and how things like this aren’t supposed to happen. Short-fingered buffoons don’t magically become presidential nominees by insulting women, Latinos, Muslims, prisoners of war, the disabled and the pope, right? Candidates who are despised by a majority of the country and who mail journalists pictures of their own fingers circled in gold sharpie don’t win primaries in record-breaking numbers. That’s not a thing that happens, here in the USA? Please?

 But there was never a single event that broke the spell completely, where we finally threw up our hands and said, “What kind of bizarre fever dream world are we living in?”

Not when Donald Trump WON the first debate by proudly asserting that he hadn’t called all women fat pigs, “only Rosie O’Donnell.” (That was kinda weird, but we went with it, because it was the first debate and Marco Rubio would probably win every primary).

The spell wasn’t broken when New Jersey governor Chris Christie dropped out of the race after eviscerating Rubio, the party’s Last, Best Hope, and formally became Trump’s Wormtongue, standing behind Trump at rallies serenely nodding as Trump made fun of him, and having to tell reporters, “No, I wasn’t being held hostage.”

It wasn’t broken when Ted Cruz said, “Donald Trump may be a rat, but I have no desire to copulate with him.”

It wasn’t even broken on April 26, a day that began with Trump suggesting that Cruz’s father was involved in the JFK assassination and ended with Trump sweeping five northeastern states.

But this week we were introduced to “John Miller,” and I’ve had enough. Obviously a vengeance demon has been screwing with our timeline. Clearly Trump has cast an augmentation spell to make everyone adore him, and we’re living in the reality where he’s a world-champion basketball player and the star of the Matrix film trilogy.

Because how else do you explain this? Trump spent years in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s calling up reporters, disguising his voice, and pretending to be a weirdly Trump-loving press agent who bragged about Trump’s friendships with celebrities and sexual exploits.

This is a thing that happened. This was done, repeatedly, by the presumptive Republican nominee for the office of president of the United States, a man who has won MORE primary votes than any Republican in history.

The Republican nominee, a man nearly ten million people voted for in the primary, spoke to People Magazine disguised as his own publicist and bragged about how Trump was a “good guy” who was “doing very well financially” and who Madonna wanted to go out with.

And—what’s real anymore? I already don’t know. I feel like a man who just challenged another man to a swordfight, who’s now watching my opponent peel off his face to reveal he’s someone completely different.

And it gets worse, much worse, because in addition to Trump secretly being his own press agent, today comes the news that Trump might have been the anonymous source who leaked the story about Trump being his own press agent to the press. The man who tipped reporters off to a story that might have embarrassed Trump, was Trump.

And suddenly I realize, I don’t know what’s going to happen in this election.

Because Trump could be anyone.

Because clearly this election is the hackneyed young adult mystery that America has been clamoring for, and we’re about to elevate the protagonist / villain of a GK Chesterton nightmare-novel to the highest office in our country.

And then what will happen? There are no longer any limits except Trump’s imagination.

He will give the press a series of clues written on napkins that, when put together in the right order, outline his foreign policy. The press will have to work together day and night in a snow-shrouded hotel just to figure out whether Trump wants to raise tariffs on China.

He will hide the nuclear codes in a jasmine-scented library, in a wooden duck named “Ping,” and send the secretary of defense on a scavenger hunt to go find it.

When the country is on the brink of declaring bankruptcy, he will lock his cabinet in the Oval Office and force them to work out their differences while trying to solve the murder of a Savannah belle and only speaking in Southern accents.

Someone stop this man. Break the augmentation spell. Go back in time and retrieve the sports almanac. Find the monks who transformed an energy key into Trumpian form and MAKE THEM TAKE IT BACK, this is not a joke, America, we need our timeline back.