Check out the animated show Bat out of Hell on YouTube!

Jessica Hooten Wilson tackles Flannery O’Connor

Dr. Hooten Wilson, leading a rousing reading of The Screwtape Letters

The University of Dallas’ Louise Cowan Scholar in Residence Dr. Jessica Hooten Wilson, who once dined with the Korrektiv Kollektiv on a particularly memorable night in New Orleans, and who has since become something of a shining star in the firmament of American Catholic letters, is THIS VERY EVENING giving a little talk on her latest project: preparing Flannery O’Connor’s unfinished novel Why Do the Heathen Rage? for publication. Holy crow, as they say.

Dy-no-mite!

Dynamite

Dynamite

From the latest biography of the Ur Existentialist, I Am Dynamite!, by Sue Prideaux. On the whole it’s very good, and of course Nietzsche really did sign his letters as “the Crucified” towards the end. But this seems to expect an awful lot of the poor guy.

Oser the Proser

oser pic cropped

If the rumors gritting the air ever settle down into hard ash on the ground and the next Korrektiv Summit is truly in the offing, I wonder if we shouldn’t all read and chew on as a group the Catholic novelist no one is reading right now…

And, in case you missed it the first time around… he’s a Wiseblood Author!

Happy Belated Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas!

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I, Tonya

No, Margot Robbie looks nothing like the 15 year old she plays in the movie, or even the 18 or 21 year old she plays in the movie. With a little makeup, she does look something like what I assume the 40-something Tonya Harding must look like now. Still and all, Robbie turns in an outstanding performance in a biopic about a national joke who somehow makes good of her life against very long odds. Sure, she may have been in on a plot to deliver an actual kneecapping to her opponent. But. She really was a damn good skater.

Between Knopler’s “Romeo & Juliet” and “Dream a Littleness Dream of Me” sung by Ella, this might be my favorite soundtrack ever. In fact, the entire Sound Design was about as sharp as I’ve ever heard. The editing is worthy of Thelma Schoonmaker (so skillful at turning Scorsese’s chaotic collection of images into narratives with such a strong pulse), and the combination of spot-on acting by the four principles from a great script make the whole movie incredibly credible.

I admit that I take issue with the metaphysics in which the entire movie is grounded. You can hear it in the above trailer when Tonya says in the voiceover, “There’s no such thing as truth. It’s bullshit!” For one thing, there’s the logical problem in stringing together both statements, by which we can gather that, yes, there is truth, and that truth is bullshit. Not all things, and perhaps even few qualitative statements, are entirely true or untrue, and most any kind of story (μῦθος) is going to embody a very particular kind of truth that may or may not also cohere with Truth with a capital T (λόγος), but by baldly stating “there’s no such thing as truth” or “there’s only my truth” (as Tonya says towards the end of the movie), the entire story demands to be taken as a tissue of lies. I can only conclude that Tonya certainly was in on the plot to break Kerrigan’s legs, and doesn’t actually deserve the sympathy everything else in the movie—the sound design, the editing, and the more pedestrian elements of the storytelling—would lead us to believe it deserves. But of course it’s with those extremely seductive technical achievements that we in the audience are enthralled.

The credits at the end ran with real footage of Tonya skating, which is indeed beautiful and a kind gesture on the part of director Craig Gillespie. For a movie that has so many scenes in which the characters are anything but, it’s a finishing touch that affirms the improbable tone of the entire story. In short, while problematic as a parable for any life but that of the impenitent thief, I, Tonya is still a very good movie.

Wait a Minute…Don’t We Know this Guy?!

Sho’ nuff, FOK Christopher Carstens up and got hisself published (again!):

carstens book

Lent is coming and my brother-in-law has eight kids to feed and clothe. Just sayin’…

Is Pope Francis a Heretic?

Screen Shot 2017-12-28 at 11.48.26 AM

Hey, I’m just asking a question. Kidding! Actually, it’s Marist priest Fr. James L. Heft, head of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, who is asking — and presumably answering — that question as part of the Institute’s Condon Lecture series. Friends of Korrektiv will no doubt recall the mini-Summit – JOB, Angelico, yours truly — held at the Institute’s conference on the Future of the Catholic Literary Imagination a couple of years back, when Wiseblood’s Joshua “Feather Pen” Hren stood up in the middle of Tobias Wolff’s talk and said, “Me. I’m the future of the Catholic literary imagination.” Notice was, as they say, served.*

Anyway, I’m guessing Fr. Heft’s answer is going to be firmly in the negative, but I did thrill to see the word “heretic” in such a rarefied setting.

Do fetuses dream of unborn sheep?

*young-philip-k-dick-600x744

An interesting and astute piece on all things “Phildickian” over at Chronicles:

But Dick also had a conservative side, represented by his strong (if heterodox) religious devotion, his distrust of large bureaucratic structures, and his longtime anti-abortion stance. In the last decade of his life, as he finally began receiving substantial amounts of money for his writing, Dick donated thousands of dollars to pro-life causes. He also wrote “The Pre-Persons,” a powerful story in which parents can abort any child under 12. Yet both the speech by Dick-the-hippie and the story by Dick-the-conservative are recognizably the work of the same man—both, in fact, were produced during the same period of his life. The first endorses rebellion, no matter how nihilistic, against a soulless apparatus of power; rebellion, at least, is human. And the story denies the government the right to define who is a human being, arguing that this will only produce a totalitarian system akin to the one the juvenile delinquents in the speech are rebelling against. One need not be pro-vandalism—or pro-life, for that matter—to approve of the underlying point.

*Dick and Percy: Separated at birth?(!)

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Gerasene ’17: The Kollektiv at Notre Dame

4a52b04c-9854-4f8d-857b-c68d95a89614-002[Image: the Mississippi gravesite of Senator LeRoy Percy, Walker Percy’s uncle.]

CONFIRMED: Two [hopefully three] members of the Korrektiv as panelists at this summer’s Trying to Say “God”: Re-enchanting Catholic Literature, June 22-24 at the University of Notre Dame. Rally, Korrektiv, rally!

The First Word on Silence . . .

. . . which is to say the novel, Chinmoku, will always belong to Endo. After reading Mark Lickona’s article I had a few questions, so I went back to my well-worn copy of the book and read a couple of paragraphs from an interview with the author in 1967 (the year after Silence was published). The first should seem familiar to readers of Korrektiv—or anybody’s inner existentialist. With a Japanese twist:

For a long time I was attracted to a meaningless nihilism and when I finally came to realize the fearfulness of such a void I was struck once again with the grandeur of the Catholic Faith. This problem of the reconciliation of my Catholicism with my Japanese blood . . . has taught me one thing: that is, that the Japanese must absorb Christianity without the support of a Christian tradition or history or legacy or sensibility.

Say what? “Without the support of a Christian tradition or history …” How is that possible? What does that even mean?

Good thing there’s another paragraph:

But after all it seems to me that Catholicism is not a solo, but a symphony … If I have trust in Catholicism, it is because I find in it much more possibility than in any other religion for presenting the full symphony of humanity. The other religions have almost no fullness; they have but solo parts. Only Catholicism can present the full symphony. And unless there is in that symphony a part that corresponds to Japan’s mud swamp, it cannot be a true religion. What exactly this part is—that is what I want to find out.

I’m really not sure what to make of the first paragraph, so please, if you can, enlighten me with your comments below. But the second paragraph I rather like, and not just because he uses music as a metaphor. What I find stirring is the resolution he exhibits as he looks ahead to the next thirty years of his career. And even more than that, perhaps, is his ready admittance that he isn’t exactly sure what he makes of the predicament in which he finds himself.

And since Scorsese’s version has fallen upon awfully rocky ground in these parts, I’ll provide a link here to a 1971 Japanese version, directed by Masahiro Shinoda from a screenplay by Endo himself with the director. It differs from the novel in several ways, but I won’t give the game away here.

Last of all, here’s a look at the author himself, shilling for something called the “Bungo Mini”. And coffee:

Uncle Walt Wrote a Novel!

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Who knew the multitudinous poet had it in him?

Apparently a grad student named Turpin did.

And apparently everyone does…now.

As noted in the New York Times, Whitman once wrote in 1882, “My serious wish were to have all those crude and boyish pieces quietly dropp’d in oblivion.” Later, when he heard someone was interested in publishing his past fiction, he said, “I should almost be tempted to shoot him if I had an opportunity.”

Clearly, Whitman hadn’t expected Turpin…

Adult Strength (A Psychological Gallery)

adult strength

          I
Neuroses are not popular these days
Although my married friends all have them.
So they take meds and play
With possibilities. Otherwise, they don’t survive long
In the darkness. The vended pills, precise dosages at proper times,
The white scalloped paper cups half-filled
With tepid, highly chlorinated water.

My friends all pray their hearts out that their treasures
            Are not to be found in the dispensaries of this world

For the orderlies in the vineyard are few
            But the orderlies in the vineyard are strong.

          II
A woman I knew, not a friend, had married young
And spent her tenderness like a season’s first crop of honey
Unaware that a late-July blight is eating away at the honeycomb,
Aborting the queen. She always carries
The odor of late August hayfields, the tanned and broken stalks
Mown down and laid out beneath the sun in dusty rows.
She spreads her hands over my coverlet like a nurse in the war.

Her mind a cold bunker of last resort, she grew into her adult strength
With the soft shape of a slender teardrop hanging forever
In open space. I could not see her beyond that space and now
She carries on as if the world behind her eyes
Is counting down in dust motes to an explosion of lint beneath her bed.
I once watched her fall asleep in a sunny parlor chair,
The barbiturates pouted her lips to the edge of endurance.

As she slept, she spread her hands over the coverlet like a lover in the war.

          III
This poem is not a chair; it is a table of contents.
This poem is not a pen; it is ink spilled in a cold war with death.
This poem seeks to spread its hands out like wind that dents a clover field.
This poem is not words; it is the mind that sees,
Not a terminal palm tree (with apologies to Hartford Indemnity)
But a fist clenching at a handful of pills spilling out in all shapes and sizes.
It’s what’s seizing us:

We, out of our minds at the end of all possible poems.

          IV
Exempla abound: Take my friend the thinker. He once was
A political philosopher but now
He lives in the mountains, his back against the sea, reliving lore
From a long-dead civil war, his narrator’s voice grown silent as a gulag.
He teaches catechism to those who don’t care,
And even though it doesn’t pay well,
He believes the job is worth more than the money.

Or at least the money and maybe more.
But he was younger back when I knew him first; we both were.
He had a million wisdoms locked behind his eyes.
They were eyes, I recall, as blue as Kentucky clover.
His wife keeps the bottles hidden from visiting parishioners.
He keeps his wife hidden from
The blue shadow of winter, and even today

He will not come out from under that mountain’s blue shadow.

          V
Another case is another philosopher friend;
He had vowed himself for a while to a more pure kind of wisdom.
But relenting, he bound himself like Prometheus
To a lot of “ologies.” He’d drive himself crazy
When I wasn’t driving him to his head doctor. I forget
What happened to him the first time; but before long
He was concrete as an angel’s name again—

Yet still inconsolably abstracted
To the point of distraction all the same.
Now he does his own taxes, pays his bills on time
And keeps a sad eye on his wife—and she lives by the skin of his teeth,
That wife of his. Meanwhile, his life is a series
Of manila folders staggered neatly
On his desk between the blotter

And a pair of tapered brass pens
Set in their holders, sprouting from his desktop
Like a cuckold’s ears.
He could not know how his wife needed to open a vein.
She merely looked on in a mirror
At seven times seven years of some kind of luck
And discovered

Seven times seven years of beautiful loss staring back.

          VI
As for my own tendencies, they live on like business cards
Set on the careless edge of a bookcase.
Or, to my mind, I drift toward the ragged transient heaps camped out
Above heating grates near a subway station.
Could be trash. Could be human.
Either way, they continue on, unedited, in northern cities,
And either don’t know or don’t care.

Perhaps they are waiting for warmer weather that never comes.

          VII
Let us pray:

Dear Great Silences: —Miserere.

Dear Infinite Spaces: —Miserere.

Dear Orderly Universe: —Miserere.

Dear Successive Darknesses: —Miserere.

Pray for us, that ours may be the treasures of the dispensary.
Pray for us, that, unseen by the orderlies,
            We may stroll the vineyards in peace.

          VIII
Dressed in white trousers and jackets again tonight,
The needles are out like chromium fangs:
They glisten beneath the skittish glow of mercury vapor—
Lights Out.—Lights Out.—Lights Out.—now swallowed in darkness
Down this long gallery of tempered glass,
Through these long corridors of scuffed floors.
Then a fugitive sound.

Then a silence captured in the utopia of opposing mirrors.
Experience has taught that
Such a battle line never budges. Fixed as a star.
Lights out, but the lungs fill with insomnia like mustard gas.
And now I watch the imperious moon that hangs outside my window,
Its hooded eye appearing, peering
Into the long torpid hours that follow….

Like armies in the night, we all live in pillboxes these days.
We don’t pray for orderliness in the dispensary.
But we do pray that reinforcements come soon. Tonight. Now.
Lights out. Lights out.
Lights out.
We all live here as if our lives depended on it.
Tonight.

Now.

…and BOB goes Nobel!

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Sorry, Cormac, maybe next year.

Vatican Digitizes a 1,600-Year-Old Illuminated Manuscript of the ‘Aeneid’

Vatican Aeneid

Here is a link some of you—JOB(e)s in particular—might find of interest: The Vatican digitizing a manuscript of Vergil’s Aeneid from the year 400 (or thereabouts).

In Rome, around the year 400, a scribe and three painters created an illuminated manuscript of Virgil’s Aeneid, illustrating the ancient hero Aeneas’ journey from Troy to Italy. 1,600 years later, the Vatican has digitized the surviving fragments of this manuscript. Known as the Vergilius Vaticanus, it’s one of the world’s oldest versions of the Latin epic poem, and you can browse it for free online.

The digitization project is part of a years-long effort by Digita Vaticana, a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Vatican Library, to convert the library’s manuscripts into digital format. Founded in 1451, the library is home to some 80,000 manuscripts and texts, including drawings and notes by the likes of Michelangelo and Galileo. Digita Vaticana’s goal is to convert these “40 million pages into 45 quadrillion bytes,” according to its website.

That’s old. That’s ancient, to distinguish it from medieval, and specifically those manuscripts transmitted to us by medieval monks.

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

Chaucer_ellesmere1

The Official Poet of the Year of Mercy

Augustine on the Delta Factor?

Delta-Factor-Walker-Percy

As I read my Lenten reflections, Augustine’s “On the Psalms” (sadly, the ACW series translation only got as far as Psalm 37) I hear little squeaks of Percian linguistics peeking through Augustine’s take on Psalm 9…

“Thou hast blotted out their name forever to the age of ages [Psalm 9:7]. The name of the wicked has been blotted out; for they who have come to believe in the true God can no longer be called wicked. Their name is blotted out forever: as long, that is, as this world shall last. To the age of ages. Now what is this age of ages? Is it not that of which this world is, as it were, an image and shadow? The course of the seasons following one another, the waning and waxing of the moon, the sun returning to the same position year by year, spring, summer, autumn and winter each passing away only to come round again – all this is a kind of imitation of eternity. But the duration underlying an immutable continuity is termed the age of ages. It may be compared with a line of poetry, first conceived in the mind and then uttered by the tongue. The mind gives form to the spoken word; the one fashioned an abiding work of art, the other resounds in the air and dies away. Thus, too, the age which passes takes its pattern from that unchangeable age which is termed the age of ages. The latter abides in the divine workmanship, that is to say, in the Wisdom and Power of God, whereas the former is worked out in the government of creation.”

Further along, looking at verse 11, Augustine rounds out the notion thus:

“And let them trust in thee who know they name [Psalm 9:11]. Again, the Lord says to Moses: I am who am; and though shalt say to the children of Israel: HE who is hath sent me. Let them trust in thee, then, who know thy name, so that they may not trust in the things that flow by on the rapid stream of time, possessing nothing but the future  “will be” and the past “has been.” For the future, when it comes, at once becomes the past; with longing we await it, with sorrow we see it pass away. [Augustine revisits this idea in greater detail in his Confessions.] But in God’s nature there will be nothing future, as if not yet existing, nor yet past as if existing no longer, but only that which is; and this is what we mean by eternity. Those, then who know the name of Him who said I am who am, and of whom it was said, He who is hath sent me, must cease to trust in and set their hearts upon the things of time, and must betake themselves to the hope of things eternal.”

The question, then, is this: Is the “search” Percy talks about a sort of fumbling around in these ages looking for that age of ages the way Helen Keller fumbled around with her fingers before she grasped the idea of water? Furthermore, when one stumbles upon the search, does he do so as a gift from God or is there something within our nature that desires to find that age of ages even if we’re as deaf, dumb and blind as Ms. Keller?

 

Kevin Drum on Assisted Suicide

It would be unfair to call this “banging on”, but Kevin Drum of Mother Jones has written a very sad story backed up with all sorts of facts and figures, as well as charts to help marshal those facts and figures as a buttress for his argument in favor of assisted suicide.

Daniel Payne (I presume that last name is pronounced just like the word “pain”, with whatever association you’d care to make) has written a reply without as many facts or figures, let alone as much emotional punch, but with a whole lot of sound reasoning. Here’s a bolus:

It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones.
It is a ghastly future in which people take their own lives to the gentle and smiling encouragement of their loved ones who would rather just get the whole thing over with and move on.

I will pray for Drum, and you should, too. Pray his cancer disappears and he lives to be a grumpy, curmudgeonly old liberal geezer still talking nonsense about gun control and other progressive ballyhoos.

If his cancer should return, however, I pray he does not take the easier way out. I pray he gives his wife and his loved ones a final, priceless, and irreplaceable gift, a gift of himself that only he can give: the gift of needing their love, their attention, and their full and unconditional care in the twilight moments of his precious life.

Desire and Deceit

girard

For Rene Girard, 1923-2015

Not again, the old men with beautiful manners.
– Ezra Pound

The old men of our age are young against
The violent, suffering such sacred cries…
We live as if the times were free and cleansed
Of envy, but we know from these
Embarking ferries what cruel death would say:
The fire rises every dawn to mystery –
Familiar as desire, lost as memory.
So truth is night that verges every day
Which hates itself, yet knows itself as day.

We try to capture every moment’s breath
With flesh, but lose the soul of argument
Because the body knows that only death
Provides the wound – unless the sentiment
Of beauty heals the foreign element –
The other – those – the sin that takes the step
In which we place the body deep, deep, deep…
I wish that nothing were the case – but take
It life will some day give what death will take

And knew no French but heard you anyway
By age and time. By youth and wonder’s books
I sat and heard you lecture, heard you say
That creatures live and imitation speaks
The grammar grace’s tender mercy brooks
Between the prepositions of and in.
I loved a woman of the world – taboo
And token sin – and urge and instinct knew
That beauty suffered what my conscience knew.

Remember, man, that dust remembers man –
Recalls the day angelic beasts renewed
Our call to human living. Manners can
Propose a mystery: the stage construed
With shadows, fictions made with words and breath;
But understand by holocaust of faith
That noon escapes, confirmed by midnight’s dark,
And night corrals the stars, each a splintered spark,
You ancient man, that hates and loves the dark.