J.F. Powers in First Things

Or rather an article about J.F. Powers in First Things. The author of Morte D’Urban was a writer of rare genius whose ear was especially well tuned to the particulars of mid-century american Catholicism, and the clergy in particular. Like a midwestern Walker Percy, or possibly the preemptive revenge of a “chickenshit Ohioan” on the Great One. Here’s an excerpt from Joseph Bottum’s very fine account:

The question is why these books have faded away. Oh, they ought to be in print somewhere, and the literary critics Peter Parker and Frank Kermode were blind when they left Powers entirely out of their otherwise encyclopedic 1996 Reader’s Guide to Twentieth-Century Writers. But it’s not some residual anti-Catholic bias that has caused the gradual forgetting of the man. The finest Catholic writer of the twentieth century was also, in some very important way, a failure. Who now reads J.F. Powers?

Thanksfully, more people are reading Powers because the New York Review of Books has recently reprinted the two novels and a complete collection of his short stories. If you haven’t already, you should read him, too.


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    I will.

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