“Religion is not like baseball.”


I almost hesitate to link to this piece by D.G. Myers on Catholic fiction over at the Books and Culture website, because the print version of Books and Culture is one of the best-designed bits of religious magazine publishing I have ever seen. Maybe subscribe? Anyway, here are some authors who are more successful than you (me):

Neither Christopher Beha nor William Giraldi is a Catholic novelist in the simplistic sense of dressing up Catholic doctrine with what Paul Elie calls “the old power to persuade.” Nor is either of them a Catholic apologist in any form. They are not trying to defend the Catholic religion nor even to make it plausible for readers likely to reject it. They are Catholic novelists for all that, however, with a literary project far more profound—to display religion as inextricably woven into human life, or what the great Catholic poet Gerard Manley Hopkins would have described as its “inscape.” They are nothing like each other, their religious convictions are nothing alike, but between them Beha and Giraldi are redefining how religious fiction, especially Catholic fiction, might be written by those with small need to shout.

Religion is not like baseball. There are no baseball novels; there are only novels about baseball. True, a novel may be about religious faith, although to say this is to say very little about it—crucially, it is to say nothing whatever about the novel’s point of view toward religious faith. The greatest religious novels are written out of a religious discernment much the same way that surrealistic poetry is written out of a particular vision of reality: it soaks the work from top to bottom. Critics may go on complaining of a lack, but those who are looking for religious fiction written from the ground up should find themselves copies of the striking recent novels by William Giraldi and Christopher Beha.



  1. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    Another difference: There is crying in religion.

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says
    • Have you [or any of the esteemed members of the Kollektiv] read any of the above-mentioned books? I recently checked What Happened to Sophie Wilder & Arts and Entertainments out of the library. Just finished Sophie Wilder – pretty good story, made all the better by the ending. Can’t recall the last time an ending’s struck me like that…

      • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

        I’m about four (4) chapters into Arts & Entertainments, but haven’t read any of the other Beha or Giraldi. I’m looking forward to reading Sophie Wilder sometime in the next thirty-six (36) months, give or take. No spoilers, please!

        • This is a very good writeup of A&E for anyone not worried about spoilers.
          Spoiler free zone:
          Frustrating is an apt word to describe A&E. Sophie Wilder was a more enjoyable read, though it covers darker material. It’s hard for me to consider A&E a satire when so much of the made up reality tv stuff seems all too real. But its the tone that really frustrated me. Aside from an amusing name here and there (“Huffing and Cuffing,” a show “about cops addicted to paint thinner.”) its not a very funny read. In fact it’s downright painful following the protagonist through this purgatory/living hell.

          • I’ve just procured a copy of Giraldi’s Busy Monsters from the library and shall report back on that.
            From the first few pages it looks to be more of what I was hoping A&E to be.
            Count me a fan of “amped up lyrical braggadocio.”

            • People who don't read novels, only blog-comment reviews of novels says

              Thank you for this!

              • I finished Busy Monsters a few weeks back, meant to post one last reply. Yes everyone here should read it. The protagonist’s Navy Seal Friend Groot is easily one of the more hilarious creations I’ve come across. But its Giraldi’s way with words that really captured my interest. The protagonist is kind of a loser much like in A&E or Blakeman in Sophie Wilder however, in this book he is a hoot! There are some salacious bits but even they are treated in the same rapid-fire air of mirth as the rest of the story. (and there was one Cathar joke)

            • Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

              Thanks indeed! I may write up something on Arts & Entertainments once I finish it and let it steep a while. So far, I agree that the authorial or third-person narrator’s tone is not much fun. The prose is clear and efficient, but seems blandly functional, unseasoned by mordant bemusement, understated outrage, questions of the narrator’s reliability, technical playfulness, or any of the other extra ‘layers’ I have come to expect in a better-than-good story about fictional but basically realistic events.

  3. m,
    Belated happy birthday. Are you an old guy yet? Thanks for the link to a nice spot of calm consideration. True enough about baseball novels. Though “Calico Joe” might be the exception to prove the rule. Having read my share of baseball stories and not a few religious ones, it might be a religious novel with baseball molded to grant entry to the inscape. Grisham is much more interesting when there are no lawyers present. Saludos a la familia.

    • Thank you, df! I am indeed an old guy now, by any number of metrics. Books and Culture in indeed an oasis; even the print layout produces serenity. Calico Joe, you say?
      Wonderful to hear from you, and to find you still stop by now and then.

  4. You’re absolutely right – it’s a lot more like football.

    Faith, man, faith.



  5. Oh, yeah, also hymns:



  6. And a council to weed out the heresy…



  7. So, yeah, religion is not like baseball.

  8. (hee hee!)

  9. p.s. Ecumenism is a must for a religion too…


    Both*/and* – not either/or…


    *9-win team: W
    ** 15-win team: L

  10. Very good website you have here but I was curious
    if you knew of any user discussion forums that cover the same topics talked about
    in this article? I’d really like to be a part of community
    where I can get advice from other knowledgeable individuals that share the same interest.
    If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Thank you!

  11. James Bonaire says

    By the sounds of it Giraldi is trying to distance himself from being labeled a “Catholic Novelist”


Speak Your Mind