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!
‘And he brought them out of darkness, and the shadow of death; and broke their bonds in sunder.’
Older Son graduated high school this year and instead of heading straight into college – perhaps to join his sister, Oldest Daughter, here – he has decided to take up an invitation from one of our diocesan priests who happens to be director of our diocesan-sponsored orphanage, Casa Hogar Juan Pablo II in Lurin (suburb of Lima), Peru. I will occasionally be posting updates as he plans to Youtube his experiences; so call it a guest posting or or call it a running narrative of a non-traditional trajectory to higher learning or call it a first hand account of a young man discerning his vocation. Whatsoever it turns out to be, there are some folk in southwest Wisconsin pretty proud right now…
Dear Papa, Mama, Barbara,Bernadette , Norah, Liam, Annie, Mara, Lucy and Claudia!!
I am just letting you know that I made it and that I am settling in fine. My Spanish is very rough but I’m working hard on it!! All the kids are incredibly cute even though I can’t understand most of what they say!! I took some videos of my plane flight but I wasn’t able to get any pictures of Lima because apparently people sometimes break the car windows just to steal cameras out of your hands.(yeah that’s a thing here) but I will try to get some pictures/videos of Casa Hogar and get them to you ASAP. It’s really hard getting used to not hearing my name so much because I had to pick a new name (they don’t have the SH sound) and I decided on Patricio (Spanish for Patrick) now before you go around saying my new name wrong remember to roll the R and the P doesn’t really make a P sound its sorta a genetic hybrid between a P and a B and the best way to know if you’re saying it right or not is to hold your hand a little ways away from your mouth and if you can feel the air you’re probably saying it wrong I miss you lots and love you that much more!!
~ Love Seamus (a.k.a. Patricio)
Mark Lilla has written a great article on Michel Houellebecq’s new novel in last month’s New York Review of Books.
The bestselling novel in Europe today, Michel Houellebecq’s Soumission, is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France. Its publication was announced this past fall in an atmosphere that was already tense. In May a young French Muslim committed a massacre at a Belgian Jewish museum; in the summer Muslim protesters in Paris shouted “Death to the Jews!” at rallies against the war in Gaza; in the fall stories emerged about hundreds of French young people, many converts, fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq; a French captive was then beheaded in Algeria; and random attacks by unstable men shouting “allahu akbar” took place in several cities., is about an Islamic political party coming peacefully to power in France. Its publication was announced this past fall in an atmosphere that was already tense. In May a young French Muslim committed a massacre at a Belgian Jewish museum; in the summer Muslim protesters in Paris shouted “Death to the Jews!” at rallies against the war in Gaza; in the fall stories emerged about hundreds of French young people, many converts, fighting with ISIS in Syria and Iraq; a French captive was then beheaded in Algeria; and random attacks by unstable men shouting “allahu akbar” took place in several cities.
… Houellebecq had gotten into trouble a decade ago for telling an interviewer that whoever created monotheistic religion was a “cretin” and that of all the faiths Islam was “the dumbest.” The normally measured editor of Libération, Laurent Joffrin, declared five days before Soumission appeared that Houellebecq was “keeping a place warm for Marine Le Pen at the Café de Flore.” The reliably dogmatic Edwy Plenel, a former Trotskyist who runs the news site Mediapart, went on television to call on his colleagues, in the name of democracy, to stop writing news articles on Houellebecq—France’s most important contemporary novelist and winner of the Prix Goncourt—effectively erasing him from the picture, Soviet style. Ordinary readers could not get their hands on the book until January 7, the official publication date. I was probably not the only one who bought it that morning and was reading it when the news broke that two French-born Muslim terrorists had just killed twelve people at the offices of Charlie Hebdo.
Soumission will be published in English this fall, so maybe we can start a group reading after the Percy conference.
‘… he came, cherub-mounted, borne up on the wings of the wind….‘
In the comments to the previous post, Duffer asks some hard questions of writers and maybe a few readers of Korrektiv.
Can we please get over Walker Percy? How many Walker Percy conferences must one attend in a lifetime?
As for myself, I can only say to the first, “Not yet, I guess”, and to the second, “Well, three anyway. Three and a half, if we count the opening of the WPC back in 2010 (or thereabouts).
Not that I haven’t tried. There was that decade reading the classics of Greek and Latin literature, not to mention a number of extended trips to such exotic locales as Zembla and McLean Hospital (in search of the ghosts of Vladimir Nabokov and Robert Lowell, respectively). But for reasons I can’t quite fathom, I always find myself back with other dissenters from the dissent, in the scrambled geography of Feliciana Parish.
For instance, I’ve just started reading The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, author of the Steve Jobs biography and a former editor at Time. Isaacson himself explains the Percy connection here, and I suppose that’s one of the things that sparked my interest in the book. It’s pretty great so far, beginning with a chapter on Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron and something of prophet of modern computers. A prophet and, as she herself would have it, a poet.
Her reengagement with math, she told her mother, spurred her creativity and led to an “immense development of imagination, so much so that I feel no doubt if I continue my studies I shall in due time be a Poet.” The whole concept of imagination, especially as it was applied to technology, intrigued her. “What is imagination?” she asked in an 1841 essay. “It is the Combining faculty. It brings together things, facts, ideas, conceptions in new, original, endless, ever-varying combinations….It is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of Science.” The Innovators, p18
This sounded awfully familiar to me. Where had I read this before? Oh, yes, of course … Percy wrote something similar to this in his last novel, The Thanatos Syndrome.
Little things can be important. Even more important is the ability——call it knack, hunch, providence, good luck, whatever——to know what you are looking for and put two and two together. A great scientist once said that genius consists not in making great discoveries but in seeing the connection between small discoveries. The Thanatos Syndrome, p3
Could that “great scientist” have been Ada Lovelace? Probably not, but the connection here is intriguing (to me, anyway). Ada Lovelace has an insight into the relationship between imagination and science in the early 19th century. Percy makes a comment based on a similar idea in a novel in 1987, by which time we might suppose Lovelace’s insight to be more commonplace——possibly picked up on by other mathematicians and scientists, some of whom Percy might have read.
But maybe an actual connection isn’t all that intriguing. Maybe it’s just true, or even a capital T Truth, but a Truth so general that anyone could make it, at almost any time. Causality and contingency be damned, maybe connections just are——between some things and other things, between people, between ideas, between propositions, between people and ideas and propositions … between anything and everything, so much so that I suppose there’s a possibility that in the end, none of it is much more than mildly interesting. Maybe it isn’t interesting at all.
But connections can take on a seemingly divine importance, as I was trying to get at in that poem last week, or as Catholics might more readily understand as the basis of the laying on of hands——we think, or at least hope that the Holy Spirit is guiding our way through these connections. Those we recognize, and probably many more that we don’t. Dash that “seemingly”!
Anyway, that’s one reason I can’t get over Walker Percy.