Archive for July, 2019

by Joseph PearceJune 9, 2019

The renewal of Catholic literature is happening before our very eyes through the efforts of many very good Catholic writers. The problem is that our eyes are closed. We do not see the glorious fruit of this literary revival because we are not looking for it.

I am presently in the midst of reading and very much enjoying The Catholic Writer Today and Other Essays by Dana Gioia. I have also just finished reading, for the second time, A Hunger in the Heart, a wonderful novel by Kaye Park Hinckley, which was published in 2013 by the now defunct Tuscany Press. Reading Mr. Gioia’s essay on “The Catholic Writer Today,” having just finished reading Mrs. Hinckley’s novel, has prompted this plaintive plea for more passionate engagement by readers in the presence of the good, new and beautiful works being written by contemporary Catholic writers. It was this particular passage at the conclusion of Mr. Gioia’s essay which prompted or provoked me to take up my plaintive pen:

The renewal of Catholic literature will happen—or fail to happen—through the efforts of writers. Culture is not an intellectual abstraction. It is human energy expressed through creativity, conversation, and community. Culture relies on individual creativity to foster consciousness, which then becomes expanded and refined through critical conversation. Those exchanges, in turn, support a community of shared values. The necessary work of writers matters very little unless it is recognized and supported by a community of critics, educators, journalists, and readers.

Although the whole of this passage merits close attention, it is the first and final sentence which provoked my pen into action. The fact is that the renewal of Catholic literature is happening before our very eyes through the efforts of many very good Catholic writers. The problem is that our eyes are closed. We do not see the glorious fruit of this literary revival because we are not looking for it. Our eyes are elsewhere, focusing on things far less worthy of our time and attention. As Mr. Gioia says, the “work of writers matters very little unless it is recognized and supported by a community of critics, educators, journalists, and readers.” Why are works of contemporary Catholic literature not being critiqued in the Catholic media? Why are they not being taught in Catholic schools and colleges? And, most important of all, why are they not being read?

It is not because they are not any good. Apart from Mrs. Hinckley, there are many other good Catholic novelists writing today. There are a handful who have enjoyed a measure of success in mainstream culture. One thinks, perhaps, of Tim Powers, Ron Hansen, Piers Paul Read, Antonia Arslan, Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera, and Michael D. O’Brien. But there are many who are known only to a few (a happy few!). Amongst their number are Dena Hunt, Arthur Powers, Chilton Williamson, Jr., J. Augustine Wetta, Lee Oser, Eleanor Bourg Nicholson, Lorraine V. Murray, Paul McCusker, Brian Kennelly, Barbara Golder, and Lucy Beckett (and there are others). In addition to these good novelists, there are a burgeoning number of fine poets, only one of whom (the aforementioned Mr. Gioia) has gained mainstream attention. Amongst the new generation of Catholic poets, those who are worthy of particular mention are Mark Amorose, Mike Aquilina, Ruth Asch, William Baer, Kevin Bezner, Pavel Chichikov, Jake Frost, Lou Ella Hickman, Brendan D. King, Philip C. Kolin, Dwight Longenecker, Denise Sobilo, and Paul Thigpen (and there are others). These are published by an intrepid band of small and adventurous Catholic publishers and/or by a small and adventurous band of Catholic journals.

The problem is not a lack of talent, nor a lack of good, new and beautiful works of literature; the problem is the woeful indifference towards such beauty on the part of those who could and should be helping to nurture and nourish the literary revival with their practical support. This includes the “critics, educators, journalists, and readers” of whom Mr. Gioia speaks, but it also includes, and crucially, the potential patrons of the arts who could be helping to transform our culture through their generous benefaction and patronage. With the help of such patrons, we can renew our beleaguered culture with the beauty of new Catholic literature; without their help, the handful of adventurous publishers who are giving the new generation of writers a voice might go the way of the now defunct Tuscany Press, which published the novel by Mrs. Hinckley that I’ve recently finished (re)reading.

Why is it that those with the material means do not do as their ancestors did and patronize the arts? Dante had a patron and it’s possible that we would not have the majesty of his Divine Comedy had he not received the patronage he needed. Shakespeare had a patron and we might not have had the glories of his Muse had he not received the support it needed. Think of the great masterpieces of art. How many of those would have been painted if some patron had not paid the artist for his work?

Almost all that’s necessary is in place for the transformation of our decadent culture through a new and vibrant Catholic revival in the arts. There are the writers. A blessed abundance of them. And there are the publishers, such as Angelico Press, Wiseblood Books, and St. Augustine’s Press, which are struggling to survive in the face of the indifference of readers and benefactors to the new works they are publishing. All that’s lacking is the patronage of those who could help but are failing to do so.

Where are the literary prizes that could be offered for the best of what’s being written today? Where is the support for those publishers who are supporting the new generation of writers? Where are the financial resources to enable these publishers to market their products effectively, thereby enabling potential readers to know of the new works being written and published? In short, where are the true and noble souls who can make the Catholic literary revival a major force in contemporary culture, transforming it with the power of beauty and the grandeur of God that such beauty reveals?

It is time for such noble souls to step forward. Now is the hour for the Catholic patron of the arts to play a role in the reclaiming of culture and the rebuilding of Christendom.

Editor’s note: The featured image is “The Passion of Creation” by Leonid Pasternak, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

The many Battles of Life. All of us will face them; that’s a given.

But what is our strategy for winning them?

As a boy in A Hunger in the Heart, Coleman Puttman Bridgeman III was hurt by the love he hungered for. Now, as a young man in Bridge-Man Burning, he leaves his hometown behind, carrying with him the family blood that runs through his veins and voices of the past that run through his head. In marriage and business, Coleman faces life’s most powerful human battles where he must confront the weakest and deepest, parts of himself. Dishonesty, betrayal, and cowardice come into play, as well as the possibility of losing everything, and everyone, he loves

 

It was the sort of statement–her mention of war–that always riled him. He vigorously rolled down the window as if he could get rid of her words, and stuck out his arm into a violent wind that shoved against his bone, his muscle, his skin. But he did not relent. He kept his arm straight and extended, daring the rushing air to overpower him. He was in charge of himself now. He was sixteen, almost a man. — Bridge-Man Burning

 

I SAW WHAT YOU DID!!

Posted: July 10, 2019 in World On The Edge

 

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN HIGH AND LOW

 

Cover Endorsements:

With masterful control and skillful writing, Kaye Park Hinckley boldly explores a wide range of wounded souls, ultimately finding love in the unlovable, and grace in the sufferings of a complex world. –Cassandra King Conroy, Tell Me A Story: My Life with Pat Conroy (coming in October)

Once again, Kaye Hinckley has written a truly Southern novel, deeply rooted in a small town yet universal in appeal. Strongly wrought characters wrestle with half-understood desires, half-articulated questions, half-intended sins – with emptiness and fulfillment, love and anger, sanity and absurdity. All in all, this is a wonderful book that struggles with the imperfections of our human condition. — Arthur Powers, author of The Book of Jotham (2012 Tuscany Novella Prize) and A Hero for the People (2014 Catholic Arts & Letters Award)

Five Star Review:

I had no idea what a Southern Gothic Novel was when I started reading “The Distance Between High and Low.” All I knew was that this novel was Kaye Park Hinckley’s newest book. I’ve read—no devoured—four of Hinckley’s previous books. I have loved each one.

“The Distance Between High and Low” is one of her best. This novel transported me to a small town in Alabama, into the bosom of an eccentric family and their peculiar neighbors, that became like family to me. I finished the book in two days—it was hard to put down. The strengths of this book are many: 1) writing that was elegant and silky-smooth 2) characters that captured and held my interest immediately and 3) a plot that kept me guessing and turning pages hungrily.

What makes this book a “Southern Gothic Novel” is its keen focus on problems common to humanity. The novel faithfully showcases some attitudes endemic to small southern towns, as well as issues that can taunt adoptees and the innate longing to connect to one’s biological parents. Interestingly, all of which I have personally experienced. There are no ghosts or hauntings, but there are plenty of flawed characters, some madness, death, and betrayal. Hope and redemption are for the taking despite all—the superglue in this story.

However, that is as much as I will say. Now you have to read it. — Meggie Daly, author of “Bead by Bead.”

Excerpt: HOBART and LITTLE SISTER

I kick at the tire on my truck and get in only to be jolted by Little Sister, grinning at me from the shotgun side. The first time I saw Little Sister on the day she was brought home to Highlow, I thought, Well, at least there’s one person besides me that Main Street will never accept. I was dead wrong. Little Sister fastened herself right in. Anybody with a heart just has to like her.

“What are you doing here?” I make my voice gruff as I can.

“I saw what you did, Hobart.” She puts a finger to her flat, coffee-colored cheek. “I saw you hit Leona.”

At once, I remember the sucked-in breath I’d heard, before and after I’d slugged the bitch.

“You didn’t see anything, Little Sister,” I say as if I’m talking to an idiot, but even I know she was never that.

“I saw it. Leona says I’m a witness,” Little Sister says proudly. “She’s not gonna take Peck from us because I told The Judge the truth.”

Which truth? But I know how to deal with Little Sister. I give her my broadest grin. “Jesus knows I never meant to hit her. Leona just pushed me too far.” Then I get ready for her sloppy kiss. She doesn’t give it, just studies me with her bright, black eyes.

Finally, she says, “I didn’t see Leona push.”

“Hell, I gave her a check. Didn’t you see that?”

“It isn’t enough.” The same tone, the same exact words Leona had used.

I give Little Sister another smile, the sweetest I can muster. “But Little Sister, I gave her almost everything I had. That is the honest to goodness truth.”

She gets right up in my face and stares into my eyes as if, this time, she’s going to kiss me. Instead, she asks, “Lord Jesus, do you think Leona wants it all?”

“Yes, Little Sister. Leona wants it all. Tell that to the Judge!”

Little Sister lays her hand over her heart as if she’s seen the flag. “I will tell the Judge the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” Immediately, she plants a wet kiss on my lips, gets out of the truck, and canters across the street to the Judge’s office.

For a while, I sit in the truck cab with a smile on my face, thinking how Truth is always right next door, but only the oddballs seem to see it.

Could it happen? A place for retraining those who won’t tolerate the Progressive left’s erroneous policies?

But isn’t it happening now? In this day of indifference to truth and error, aided by much of the media, the line between the good and the bad is vanishing. Many tolerate any means to money, sex, and power. Many tolerate the killing of their own children before and even after birth. Many tolerate an open-door policy to anyone who wants to illegally enter  America, our HOME, infecting us with drugs, lawlessness, and disease, putting enormous pressure on our law enforcement, educational, and medical systems and facilities.  Isn’t it just everyday common sense that the toleration of all this is terribly wrong? Isn’t this precisely why Americans need more INTOLERANCE?

A PLEA FOR INTOLERANCE — Fulton J. Sheen

“America is suffering not so much from intolerance, which is bigotry, as it is from tolerance, which is indifference to truth and error, and a philosophical nonchalance that has been interpreted as broad‐mindedness. Greater tolerance, of course, is desirable, for there can never be too much charity shown to persons who differ with us. Our Blessed Lord Himself asked that we ʺlove those who calumniate for us,ʺ for they are always persons, but He never told us to love the calumny.”

“In the face of this false broad‐mindedness, what the world needs is intolerance. The mass of people have kept up hard and fast distinctions between dollars and cents, battleships and cruisers, ʺYou owe meʺ and ʺI owe you,ʺ but they seem to have lost entirely the faculty of distinguishing between the good and the bad, the right and the wrong. The best indication of this is the frequent misuse of the terms ʺtoleranceʺ and ʺintolerance.ʺ There are some minds that believe that intolerance is always wrong, because they make ʺintoleranceʺ mean hate, narrow‐ mindedness, and bigotry. These same minds believe that tolerance is always right because, for them, it means charity, broad‐mindedness, American good nature.”

“What is tolerance? Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience towards evil, and a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. But what is more important than the definition is the field of its application. The important point here is this: Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to truth. Intolerance applies only to truth, but never to persons. Tolerance applies to the erring; intolerance to the error.”

“The government must be intolerant about malicious propaganda. Tolerance does not apply to truth or principles. About these things we must be intolerant, and for this kind of intolerance, so much needed to rouse us from sentimental gush, I make a plea. Intolerance of this kind is the foundation of all stability.”

 

Mary’s Mountain is a short novel I wrote several years ago, about tolerance taken to the extreme. It was meant to be futuristic, about what could happen to America. But in just a few years, the future has caught up with today.  Here are a few lines from that novel.

Irene and I conceived it together—”The Institute of Tolerance,” for those who won’t comply.

Today, inside its progenies, rigid rooms are covered in fiddle-faddle flowers

and sentimental hearts beating warm and fuzzy pizazz into every state of the union.

Waiters parade among the wayward misfits with tray after tray of elaborate desserts.

Indulge yourself, the waiters say. Pleasure is everything.

So the people grab it, then ooh and ahh,  lifting spoons full of  artificial whipped cream to their lips,

while outside each building, a neon sign blinks:

Tolerance Today, Tolerance Tomorrow, Tolerance Forever!

The signs have fingers, virtual reality, to motion the people inside.

The signs move. The lights move.

And the people are moved, to tolerate anything.

Only a few resist. For those who do, there is The Solitary Room. 

How do each of us know that we ought to have Freedom? Did someone tell us so?

Or is the idea that we are free engrained in each human being from birth?

And if Freedom is engrained in us at birth, then where did it come from?

There can only be one answer, and most of us know what, or who, it is.

The desire to be free does not come from a gene passed to us by our parents, like the shape of our face, or the color of our eyes and hair. It is not something we thought up for ourselves either. It is not an object that can be physically touched, because it is not physical, it is spiritual.

The desire for Freedom is innate in each human person, and it comes as gift from our Creator.

But our desire for Freedom does not necessarily mean that we will have it. Others can keep it from us, or we can keep it from ourselves–by choice.

Because our Freedom is tied to the personal choices of each one of us.

It is our choice when we restrict another’s freedom, either physically or spiritually. It is our choice to indulge ourselves in addictions, and bring others into those same addictions. It is our choice to make gods of ourselves at the expense of others. It is our choice to kill, to steal, to lie, to cheat.

And it is our choice to ignore that we are all God’s children–from conception to death.

THINK about this: Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2Corinthians3:17

But what if we block the Spirit of the Lord from our lives? Many do just that. As of now, it is not the majority, but someday–if completely godless people are allowed to take control of America–it might be the majority. If that happens, we may as well say good-bye to freedom in America as we know it.

So, THINK long and hard about who you will support politically. The very essence of our Freedom depends upon it.