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

From Korrektiv’s Little-known Fact Dept.

bab's tf telegram

Flannery O’Connor is the Toothe Faerie.

I have proof here in this tooth-a-gram to my third youngest daughter.

Flannery and Me

614px-Robie_with_Flannery_1947

The New Mexico Nurse (long since transplanted here to La Mesa, where all good people live) was kind enough to email and let me know that the latest issue of the New Yorker magazine carried a collection of excerpts from the grad-school (some place in Iowa?) journal of Flannery O’Connor. The entries are addressed to God. I haven’t read them yet (waiting ’til I can savor), except for the line “Please help me to get down under things and find where You are,” which naturally jumped out at me, and the last bit, which I couldn’t help but notice:

My thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well not have made me. And the feeling I egg up writing here lasts approximately half an hour and seems a sham. I don’t want any of this artificial superficial feeling stimulated by the choir. Today I have proved myself a glutton – for Scotch oatmeal cookies and erotic thought. There is nothing left to say of me.

Isn’t it fun to find you have things in common with one of your heroes? Scratch “oatmeal cookies” and replace “half an hour” with “five minutes,” and it could be me writing that entry! Just not, you know, in the New Yorker.

Classic Fiction, New Fiction, Wiseblood Fiction

Elsewhere in the rough-and-tumble cyberspace of new publishing, Wiseblood Books has been moving some books. By my count they’re getting close to two dozen classic titles, with an original novel on the way.

Wiseblood Books is a newly-launched publishing line particularly favorable toward works of fiction, poetry, and philosophy that render truths with what Flannery O’Connor called an unyielding “realism of distances.” Such works find redemption in uncanny places and people; wrestle us from the tyranny of boredom; mock the pretensions of respectability; engage the hidden mysteries of the human heart, be they sources of either violence or courage; articulate faith and doubt in their incarnate complexity; dare an unflinching gaze at human beings as “political animals”; and suffer through this world’s trials without forfeiting hope. We seek contemporary fiction in the vein of such popular classics as Dickens’ Pickwick Papers, Graham Greene’s “entertainments,” Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Cather’s O Pioneers!, and P.D. James’ The Children of Men or as demanding as Dostoevsky’s Demons, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Melville’s Moby-Dick, Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago, or David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. Although we’ve already produced a small library of classics, which includes Notes From Underground, The Sickness Unto Death, and Three Detective Stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Wiseblood Books will release its first work of contemporary fiction, The Unfinished Life of N., on October 1st, 2013. You can learn more, follow the blog, buy books, submit manuscripts, or donate here: www.wisebloodbooks.com

The Unfinished Life of N. by Micah Cawber (Coming October 1st, 2013): In the tradition of Flannery O’Connor, The Unfinished Life of N. scrutinizes the quiet ambitions of normal people, their everyday fictions concerning others’ and their own humanity and goodness, as it follows Nafula, the innocent but not naïve protagonist, from the backwoods of Wisconsin to AIDS-stricken regions of Africa, and, after a rehabilitation program at a Mental Health home, through an encounter that, paradoxically, catalyzes hope and an openness to the terrible speed of mercy.

Dinner with Waifu (嫁との晩餐)

Flannery O'Connor Dinner

Supping with the beloved on an important anniversary.

Join the fray…

USA. New York. 1950.

Where they discuss the not-so-usual suspects – including you and you and you and you and and you and you and…!

 

Sex and Fiction

The flow of the bottle led me to Jacques Barzun’s essay “Venus at Large: Sexuality and the Limits of Literature.” I was looking for a way to bolster my smudged pontifications on political mumbo-jumbo over a Manhattan on the porch and instead found Barzun’s sober judgment on an earler topic.

Discuss or not, it would be interesting to reconcile, a la the Catholic imagination, the following two quotes:

The student of literature is instinctively loath to set theoretical limits to the art he studies, and so, surely does the writer feel about he art he practices – unless he is a mere follower of convention. But in recognizing this axiomatic freedom, it is one thing to say that sexuality, like any other human power, deserves limitless literary expression; it is quite another to say that literature should find room for ever more detailed descriptions of the sex act. ….At first, then, sexuality, and, later, sex are literary devices to restore respect for instinct, to tap a source of power which can at once abate the disease of extreme self-consciousness and counteract the stupefying effect of the world of machines. For sex is in a curious way the most and the least personal of man’s activities. Used in the novel, it could rebuild the whole man and show his oneness with all men. Again, if literature was to criticize life and lead the revolt against convention, it needed a new element that was indeed elemental and yet was instantly felt as intimate and defining. That element was the sexual, and since in art what is novel in conception requires a striking embodiment, sexuality was bound to move steadily toward an ultimate form in the sex scene.” – Jacques Barzun, etc.

And our Grand Dame of the Grotesque in her 1957 essay “The Church and the Fiction Writer”:

“Part of the complexity of the problem for the Catholic fiction writer will be the presence of grace as it appears in nature, and what matters for him is that his faith not become detached from his dramatic sense and from his vision of what-is. No one in these days, however, would seem more anxious to have it become detached than those Catholics who demand that the writer limit, on the natural level, what he allows himself to see.”

Run, Rabbit, run!

Inspired by faith, Catholic businessman seeks to underwrite beauty in Catholic fiction

(This article first appeared in the August 23 issue of The Catholic Times, newspaper of the Diocese of La Crosse)

The modern Catholic fiction writer has a tough row to hoe. On the one hand, he is expected by his fellow Catholics, at least those unfamiliar with the complexities of modern literature, to write simple moral stories where good wins out over evil, the princess is saved and happily ever after becomes the only acceptable conclusion to a story.

On the other hand, the Catholic fiction writer is also hoping to reach out to the modern non-Catholic and mostly non-Christian reader with the assumption that his story is worth hearing – and yet he must not say too much about the “R word” (religion) lest his readership begin heading in a panic for the exits.

The 20th century southern Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor puts the dilemma this way in her 1957 essay “The Church and the Fiction Writer:”

“Part of the complexity of the problem for the Catholic fiction writer will be the presence of grace as it appears in nature, and what matters for him is that his faith not become detached from his dramatic sense and from his vision of what-is. No one in these days, however, would seem more anxious to have it become detached than those Catholics who demand that the writer limit, on the natural level, what he allows himself to see.”

In fact, besides being pressured by secular and Catholic readers to fit into their own notions of what fiction should be, the Catholic writer’s row is made all the tougher to hoe because of the dearth of publishing houses willing to give Catholic writers a chance to show that they can write compelling, well-written and grace-infused stories for the Catholic and non-Catholic alike.

But Boston businessman Peter Mongeau is doing his best to make sure that the Catholic writer does find a voice within the milieu of today’s bestseller lists.

Fed a steady diet of good Catholic fiction throughout his life – including works by O’Connor, Graham Greene, G.K. Chesterton, Walker Percy, and Evelyn Waugh – Mongeau has started Tuscany Press, a startup publishing company which seeks to provide the Catholic fiction writer a platform and the Catholic fiction reader a lodestone for quality storytelling. He’s also announced an annual prize through the press which pays winning fiction manuscripts in cash and publication contracts.

A graduate of Boston University, Mongeau received his master’s in business administration from Boston College. After working in New York City for a time in the investment field, he returned with his wife and four children to Boston.

Boston bookworm

It was in Beantown that Mongeau first got the itch to enter the publishing business.

Before starting Tuscany this past June, Mongeau had already founded Christus Publishing, a Catholic press which specializes in books on traditional Catholic spirituality, with a strong emphasis on Carmelite writers.

As coordinator of his parish’s book club, Mongeau became familiar with Catholic publishing and noticed a demand for books on Catholic spirituality – which led to his starting Christus. Developing plans to expand the number and kinds of Christus’ titles, Mongeau noticed the hunger for quality fiction.

“As I looked into expanding Christus, I kept running into two things,” he said. “First, that people were looking for Catholic fiction along the lines of Flannery O’Connor, Chesterton, Percy, and Graham Greene, the Catholic literary novels of the 50s and 60s,” he said. “Second, there was a dearth of modern-day Catholic fiction.”

Talent and treasure

Consulting publishers, literary agents and writers, Mongeau undertook an analysis of the publishing industry which led him to recognize an underserved market of writers and readers.

“I thought there was a definite need from a reader’s perspective in terms of Catholic fiction and from a writer’s perspective with people writing Catholic fiction but couldn’t get published,” he said. “So that’s how Tuscany Press was born.”

Mongeau also took his cue to start a Catholic fiction publishing house from the writings of Blessed John Paul II. Quoted on Tuscany’s website (www.tuscanypress.com), the late pontiff’s 1999 “Letter to Artists” encourages writers to use their talents to promote a culture of life.

“In order to communicate the message entrusted to her by Christ, the Church needs art,” John Paul II writes. “Art must make perceptible, and as far as possible attractive, the world of the spirit, of the invisible, of God. It must therefore translate into meaningful terms that which is in itself ineffable…. The Church has need especially of those who can do this on the literary and figurative level, using the endless possibilities of images and their symbolic force.”

In Tuscany’s light

It was another Christian writer – Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky – who led Mongeau to naming his foundling press after the picturesque region of central Italy.

“Dostoevsky said that ‘Beauty will save the world,’” Mongeau said. “God is beauty and one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been has been Tuscany. That’s why I chose the name – it’s where I found beauty. When I was out in Tuscany, it epitomized the beauty we have in art – and the beauty that God provided us in this world.”

While Mongeau is banking on beauty being a bestseller, he also wants to sweeten the deal for writers – by attracting them to Tuscany with a literary prize. With cash awards and publication in the novel, novella and short story categories, the Tuscany Fiction Prize has four criteria, Mongeau said.

“Is it a good story? Is it well written? Does it capture the imagination of the reader? And does it have the presence of God?” he said. “If a book doesn’t have these four things, it’s not going to be good Catholic fiction.”

This last criteria – the presence of God – Mongeau acknowledges, isn’t a matter of making sure God is a character in the novel so much as the writer sees in a fallen world a possibility for redemption. He stresses that the Catholic imagination seeks to bring God to readers “symbolically, subtly and deliberately.”

“The Catholic imagination takes into consideration the whole world as we know it, as we live it, as we believe it,” he said. “God is present in the world and events don’t just happen. There is a God, a living God who is active in the world in which we live.”

The deadline is Sept. 30, he said, and already he’s being inundated with manuscripts in all three categories.

“The prize is there to encourage writers to take up the craft of writing Catholic fiction and stories, to promote Catholic fiction and to recognize the talent when it comes along,” he said.

Rewriting the market

Optimistic about the success of Tuscany Press, Mongeau said the publishing world is vastly different from what it was before the so-called information age dawned.

“The barriers to entry are lower today in publishing than they’ve ever been,” Mongeau said. “Technology has provided the ability to start a publishing company on short dollars. While it’s still significant dollars, it’s not like it was years ago. The industry has changed dramatically in 15 years.”

In those 15 years, Mongeau said, the advent of online distribution through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and the creation of e-book platforms – Kindle, Nook and I-Book – have led to an explosion of independent publishing houses.

“The distribution channel alone has changed dramatically,” he said. “If you’re selling books through Barnes & Noble, Amazon and electronically [through e-books], I’d say you have over 50-60 percent of your distribution channel. Plus you have global worldwide distribution that way also.”

In addition, it goes without saying, Mongeau said, that Tuscany Press is also taking advantage of the social media empires to spread the word about Catholic fiction – including Facebook, Twitter and a blog which Mongeau maintains on Tuscany’s website.

“We have to go out there and prove that Catholic fiction works, and is written well, and there is a market for people to buy Catholic fiction,” Mongeau said. “But we do believe we can do this.”

For more information about Tuscany Press or the Tuscany Prize for Catholic Fiction, call (781) 424-9321 or contact Peter Mongeau at publisher@tuscanypress.com.

The boys of…winter?

There seems to be something twitching in the cultural scalp that’s got so many folks itching about the fate of boyhood.

There’s this little gem from the fellow over at Wondermark which is just a hoot.

But it got me thinking about Hanna Rosin’s recent report in the Atlantic (WARNING: Much stripping of mystery and manners to the crude and obscene throughout):

One of the women had already seen the [porn] photo five times before her boyfriend showed it to her, so she just moved her pitcher of beer in front of his phone and kept on talking. He’d already suggested twice that night that they go to a strip club, and when their mutual friend asked if the two of them were getting married, he gave the friend the finger and made sure his girlfriend could see it, so she wouldn’t get any ideas about a forthcoming ring. She remained unfazed. She was used to his “juvenile thing,” she told me.

Which in turn reminded me of Jeff Minick’s piece in Chronicles (WARNING: much discussion of the restoration of mystery and manners throughout):

We begin by teaching boys from an early age the romance and adventure of life. How did the adolescent who played a high-minded knight-errant evolve into a sullen, nihilistic teenager? How did that same adolescent become the 30-year-old who wears his baseball cap backward, plays more video games than the teenager, and lives with his parents? Boys who come of age watching sex and violence in movies, or the cynicism offered by most television comedies, who listen to loveless music drenched in ugliness and despair, who possess no sense of responsibility or consequence, will likely join Peter Pan’s tribe of Lost Boys. To buck this trend, we must keep a vigilant watch on the culture. To grow men, we must teach our boys heroism, taking our models from literature, movies, and living examples.

Which in turn recalled that this book will be coming out sometime soon:

From his celebrated appearance, hatchet in hand, in Parson Mason Locke Weems’s Life of Washington to Booth Tarkington’s Penrod, the all-American boy was an iconic figure in American literature for well over a century. Sometimes he was a “good boy,” whose dutiful behavior was intended as a model for real boys to emulate. Other times, he was a “bad boy,” whose mischievous escapades could be excused either as youthful exuberance that foreshadowed adult industriousness or as deserved attacks on undemocratic pomp and pretension. But whether good or bad, the all-American boy was a product of the historical moment in which he made his appearance in print, and to trace his evolution over time is to take a fresh view of America’s cultural history, which is precisely what Larzer Ziff accomplishes in All-American Boy.

Today in Literature*

 

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely
The pangs of despised love…

 The book is called “50 Shades of Grey” written by TV executive E.L. James and it’s apparently leaving quite a dust in its wake. It’s being kicked about as the latest political football in the culture wars and has raised as many eyebrows for who’s reading it as for its content. A genre of erotic literature, it is attracting women of all sorts because it’s heroine, Anastasia Steel, is drawn sympethetically. A young women in search of love – and finding Christian Grey (I’m not making these names up!), a powerful young executive with a penchant for whips and chains.

First there were “mommy bloggers” and now, thanks to 50 Shades, there’s “mommy porn.” I pray that never the twain shall meet.

But the books – there’s a trilogy of them – while clearly meant to draw a new line in the sand for sexual politics are also a barometer of our culture’s loss of creature, of mystery and of manners.  This loss is nowhere clearer than in the cultural saturation of pornography. The more sexual “freedom” we gain the more we lose any sense of ritual’s place in relations between the sexes. The prevailing – and often conflicting – concerns for equality, individuality and pleasure not only prevent courtship from occurring and have bottomed out relations between the sexes to the lowest, rawest and most explicit denominators: flesh and fornitication. These same forces have rendered men as boys incapable of courting women and likewise leaves women lonely and desperate for some sort of courtship ritual. I am reminded of what Mary Eberstadt, quoting Roger Scruton, recently pointed out in her excellent work “Adam and Eve after the Pill” (a review of which will be arriving anon):

“…Roger Scruton has put the paradox about men and pornography memorably, ‘This, it seems to me, is the real risk attached to pornography. those who become addicted to this risk-free form of sex run a risk fo another and greater kind. They risk the loss of love, in a world whre only love brings happiness.” 

But reversing course on this matter is a bit like trying to stop an ocean liner on a dime.

Enter E.L. James, whose BDSM themes do nothing more than reinforce the fact that porn is here to stay – but with this difference, that unlike the conventional [sic] hard core pornography, BDSM requires that participants, as Wikipedia notes (I dare not look anywhere else for the info – and even Wiki’s got some rather disquieting images to accompany its text), take on “complementary, but unequal roles, thus the idea of consent of both the partners becomes essential.” Thus, the BDSM relationship serves as a bad imitation of the traditional courting ritual between the sexes.

 I haven’t read the trilogy and don’t intend to, but Carolyn Moynihan over at Crisis has stared into the abyss long enough for us (although it’s not clear whether she made it through the entire trilogy herself) and come back with much to tell about James’ literary efforts.    She complains, rightfully so, that the explicit nature of the material eclipses any literary effort invovled.

“The problem for those of us who wouldn’t touch this stuff with a barge-pole — let alone download it onto our iPad — is its popularity,” Moynihan writes. “It has been dubbed ‘mommy porn’ because it is allegedly being devoured by ‘mainstream’ and ‘suburban’ women over 30 and not just by young urbanites. It even has its academic apologists. Two of them writing on the CNN website invoke ‘the novel’s compelling relevance’ and suggest that its ‘abundant references to classic literature unlock a subtler commentary [than its fan-fiction origins suggest] on enduring obstacles to women’s individual freedom and rights.’ The classic references include Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre and Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Perhaps the popularity could also be a sign of the culture attempting to address the fact that because manchilds are not quite connecting with women, James’ readers see Ana Street as the spokeswoman for all those lonely women looking for a romantic connection at any cost. The disconnect between men and women, as Eberstadt points out in her book, is precisely due to the prevalence of porn – one of several rotten fruit, she says, of our sexual mores’ upset apple cart. “…[I]t is surely the sexual revolution that is the prime mover,” she writes, of sexual immaturity among men and a disparing attitude toward romance by women. “This seems so for two reasons,” Eberstadt continues. “First, it has led to an atrophying of the protective instinct in many men – because many have nothing to protect. The powerful majority desire for recreative rather than procreative  sex has led not only to a marriage dearth, but also to a birth dearth; as the old saying correctly goes, ‘Adults don’t make babies; babies make adults.'”

So what, then, is James trying to provide women in her stories? Again, Moynihan is helpful here in peering through the keyhole to the goings on in Christian Gray’s world. While Moynihan proposes that the popularity of the trilogy can be attributed to “the herd mentality among an entertainment and titillation focused public that sends people stampeding after the latest daring foray into forbidden subjects, whether blasphemy or bondage,” she dismisses the proposal that the work has a literary pedigree.

“Frankly, I think James has a cheek to even mention Elizabeth Bennet, Jane Eyre and Tess in the context of an SM relationship, whose object is depraved sensual pleasure,” she writes. “Whatever male ‘power’ they contended with in their very different ways, they were women of moral sensitivity who aspired to married love and, to a woman, would have been revolted by the Shades of Grey conceit.”

True enough. But consider: Could it be that James’ work is attempting to flesh out (pun intended) the grammar of that “moral sensitivity” which Bennet, Eyre and Tess possessed and were guided in large part by? Fleshing out, in fact, in a way that your average Harlequin romance or other bodice rippers cannot?  As I’ll discuss in a bit, the BDSM comes with its own social norms and mores – and could it be that James – consciously or otherwise – has tapped into that deep well in women which desires to see that same sort of “moral sensitivity” – even if it’s not quite in keeping with the tastes of the Regency or Early or Late Victorian England.

But you can’t give what you don’t have – especially if you already gave away what you wish you had again. So there’s no question that we can see the BDSM culture as even a pale reflection of true society any more than a vampire can expect to see anything but the mirror when he looks into it.  Indeed, thanks to the Sexual Revolution, the social norms in 18th-19th century England were vastly different from what we have today. But if BDSM is not society then neither is much of what passes for culture today true culture, a point Eberstadt makes in her book:

“Ubiquitously, it seems, those who were once husbands and fathers and providers have traded in their ties and insurance cards for video games and baseball hats worn backwards. It is a message that the popular culture also broadcasts nonstop – from vehicles for women like Sex in the City and The View to those popular among men, including such commercially successful examples as the Jackass franchise, the Spike channel, and just about every comedy about idiot males to issue from Hollywood in recent memory.”

Which brings us back to the question of what makes Ana Steele such an atrractive heroine for women? To answer that, let us look at her motivations. Again, not having read the work, I can only speculate. But it seems that Eberstadt might have the answer in her analysis of the Sexual Revolution’s marvellous failure to produce anything but monsters such as Christian Gray. Moynihan states that if women are eating up the Gray trilogy, it is a sign that things have come to a bad pass indeed for women in America.  “The pornification of sex,” she points out, “if it has truly captured the imagination of wives and mothers, is a path to personal and social oblivion.”

And yet, as Eberstadt notes, the Sexual Revolution has rendered American society fertile ground for just such a view of sex. ‘Today’s revolution against traditional marriage amounts to two charges made repeatedly, almost always by women and with many echoes elsewhere in contemporary sources: first, that the combined pressures of motherhood and marriage and breadwinning are just too much to bear; and second, that many of today’s marriages – that is to say, marriages made among enlightened, older, educated, sophisticated popele – are sexual deserts” (Emphasis mine).

Doesn’t it seem that Christian Gray redresses both these charges in his “Red Room of Pain” – by enabling Ana to give her self exclusively to Gray with plenty of sex, even meaningful and playful sex  – in a context where roles and ends are clearly defined?

Furthermore, Eberstadt declares the war of the sexes over and the winner is – no one.

“There are no more sexes, only lists of chores that one gender unit mysteriously does better than the other” and in a more literal sense “because contemporary man, many comtemporary women charge, has lost interest in sex” (Emphasis mine).

Christian Gray takes the mystery out of the gender confusion by showing a fervid – some would say excessive – interest in sex. Perhaps I am saying nothing more than this – that it is easy to see why the female imagination might be ensnared by James’ work. But I would like to push it a step further and recall two other fictions, one classic (it is at least recognized as canonical) and one which is a modern cult-classic. I am speaking of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein and Brett Easton-Ellis’ American Psycho. 

It is the central thesis of E. Michael Jones’ book  Monsters from the Id: The Rise of Horror in Fiction and Film that the cause for the rise in horror as a major genre of literature and film has been the undermining of natural law in the individual and in society. The book – perhaps the best written on the subject – is rife with examples. Does culture condone abortion and pornography? We have a film which helps us work through this horror: Alien. Has modern thought rationalized what is evil into what is good – such as adultery and incest? We have a story for that too: Frankenstein. Is society feeling a bit queasy about sexual libertinism? Let’s look at Dracula and make sense of it, shall we? In each case, the monster created is an avenger out to unmask, wittingly or not, the unnatural and depraved state of society while at the same time hinting at some sort of – dare I say it? – korrektiv.

Jones does a good job especially of documenting Mary Shelly’s troubled relationship with her lust-crazed husband Percy Bythe Shelly (not to mention her batty mother, an Ur-Gloria Steinem who believed in polyandry inter alia). It’s too bad he had not taken up Easton-Elllis’ work in his book. Whereas Frankenstein channels the myth of Prometheus to reveal the depths of human depravity – science eaten by its own “quest for fire” – in Easton-Ellis’ 1991 novel (I never saw the film) the anti-hero and possible psychopath Patrick Bateman attempts to rip the mask off the excesses, as he saw it, of Yuppiedom in the 1980s through an overlay of Dante’s Hell. Although the correspondences are somewhat vague, and the ending anything but conclusive, it is clear that the rank abuse and objectification, whether real or imagined, is meant to touch the nerve that lies raw just below the consumer instinct and says, This stuff is just stuff. Is this all there is?

Here’s what the author had to say about his work: “[Bateman] was crazy the same way [I was]. He did not come out of me sitting down and wanting to write a grand sweeping indictment of yuppie culture. It initiated because my own isolation and alienation at a point in my life. I was living like Patrick Bateman. I was slipping into a consumerist kind of void that was supposed to give me confidence and make me feel good about myself but just made me feel worse and worse and worse about myself. That is where the tension of “American Psycho” came from.”

Bateman’s story is an attempt to get a handle on the male “consumer” – and the novel is flawed, I think, for trying too hard to convey this notion through the depravities that Bateman visits on his female victims. I imagine the same sort of excess destroys the literary pretensions of 50 Shades as well. Nonetheless all those men who have turned in their credentials to manhood and fatherhood for unlimited access to the Spike Channel and the Spice Channel are in some sense represented by Mr. Bateman (it’s even hiding there in his name – get it?).

Is it too much of a leap of logic to assume that Ana Steel could be the female response to the Patrick Bateman’s in the world? (Her first name, by the way, means “resurrection.”)

Moynihan in her essay on 50 Shades of Gray and Eberstadt in her chapter on porn in Adam and Eve both conclude on a hopeful note.

For Moynihan, it’s a matter of numbers.

“But, so what if a few million women read the sick fantasies of a television executive?” she asks. “There are roughly 3.5 billion women in the world, and when the erotica boom has finally spent itself there will be more than enough of them still with their wits and dignity to carry on the work of love and civilisation that women in particular are equipped to do.”

Likewise, Eberstadt also places hope in hope – although one that possesses a more theological framework.

“‘Where sin increased,’ as Paul’s Letter to the Romans has it, ‘grace aboundeth all the more’ (5:20),” she writes. “The record of what pornography has wrought shows that kind of abundance too, though it may not yet be an issue of academic study…Look at energy fuleing all those atttempts to repair the damage done – the turns to counseling, therapists, priests, pastors and other working in these awful trenches to help the addicted get their real lives back.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether this hope will translate into the sort of cultural crucible necessary to cure women of their loneliness and men of their immaturity. But in the meantime, we should understand that just as Patrick Bateman will be written into the contemporary literary canon as the Everyman of today, so too, Ana Steel will remain a barometer of exactly how lonely women are – and how the abuses of the Sexual Revolution have borne fruit.

In the book of Genesis, God made man and woman and saw that it was good. Adam and Eve, I’d like you to meet Patrick Bateman and Ana Steel. They’re pikers, of course, in the sin department, but since they’re your children and the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, I think they’re worth paying attention to – if only to learn how to work out own redemption – perhaps even with whips and chains.  

*I just can’t bring myself to steal Mr. Lickona’s excellent signature feature. But being a writer, I have no problem appropriating.

Clerihew: Flannery O’Connor

Image credit: Cmacauley

Flannery O’Connor
Had a death sentence upon her:
Though it’s tough to discuss,
Yet sometimes it’s lupus.