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Archives for March 2011

Yesterday in Porn: The Moviegoer 50th Anniversary Edition

The Moviegoer, Walker Percy’s first and most widely acclaimed novel, was published 50 years ago, in 1961. In addition to the various references to movies and movie stars scattered throughout the book, there is a curious reference to a pornographic cartoon called “Tillie and Mac.” It’s one of those references the reader can pass over without too much consideration, but I was curious about whether there was a literal source and so did a bit of Googling.

Come to find out, there is in fact a source for the reference. First of all, there was the newspaper comic strip, Tillie the Toiler, which ran from 1921 to 1959, and which Percy was probably aware of as he worked on The Moviegoer in the late ’50s. More interestingly, and more to the point for the reference in The Moviegoer, there were also pornographic riffs on the comic strip which appeared in the form of “Tijuana bible” mini-comic books. Tijuana bibles, according to an article in Wikipedia, depicted “explicit sexual escapades usually featuring well known cartoon characters, political figures, or movie stars, invariably used without permission.”

In Percy’s novel, the pornographic “Tillie and Mac” characters are initially mentioned by Kate, protagonist Binx Bolling’s troubled beloved. Later, they figure in one of Binx’s interior monologues addressed to movie actor Rory Calhoun:

What a sickness it is, Rory, this latter-day post-Christian sex. To be pagan it would be one thing, an easement taken easily in a rosy old pagan world; to be Christian it would be another thing, fornication forbidden and not even to be thought of in the new life, and I can see that it need not be thought of if there were such a life. But to be neither pagan nor Christian but this: oh this is a sickness, Rory. For it to be longed after and dreamed of the first twenty years of one’s life, not practiced but not quite prohibited; simply longed after, longed after as a fruit not really forbidden but mock-forbidden and therefore secretly prized, prized first last and always by the cult of the naughty nice wherein everyone is nicer than Christians and naughtier than pagans, wherein there are dreamed not one but two American dreams: of Ozzie and Harriet, nicer-than-Christian folks, and of Tillie and Mac and belly to back.

Cross reference this with Percy’s later musings on porn — Sutter’s use of it in The Last Gentleman, the vaginal console in Love in the Ruins, the surveillance footage in Lancelot, the unmentionable things described in The Thanatos Syndrome, the “Promiscuous Self” section of Lost in the Cosmos — cross reference all of that with Matthew Lickona’s ongoing “Today in Porn” series and you’ve got yourself a timely (or timeless) topic for your Percy conference paper.

Breaking through the secular ceiling…


Sometimes we lowly Catholic journalists will attract the attention of the secular papers with a story that has crossover value.  We don’t feel so much validated, of course, as providing a sprinkle of salt to the secular gravy…

Grassland Dairy, by the way, is the largest producer of butter on the North American continent. Chances are, if you eat butter, it came from Grassland.

Today in Porn, Academic Freedom Edition

Class sex toy demonstration causes controversy

Viva la tenure!

Today in Porn, Be Careful What You Worship Edition

Okay, so I was all set to praise these pro-choice protestors for their daring appropriation of Hipster Ariel for extremely earnest purposes…

When I happened to notice the woman to the Hipster Ariel protester’s right:

“Have Faith, Have Choice.”  Hm.  An interesting religious element to that one, especially since it seems to depict a yawning feminine orifice.  Or does it?  Lessee, an oval of red and gold rays surrounding a blue interior, with something more inside the blue…  Oh, now I get it:

The Virgin Mary – the girl who got knocked up by God!  Of course!  Take it away, DFW:

“Because here’s something else that’s weird but true: in the day-to day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship — be it JC or Allah, bet it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles — is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.”

No Ideas But In Things…

Whether a writer is his own subject or not, he is the filter through which the fiction passes. Flannery O’Connor may never have written about herself but everything she wrote is unmistakably hers. One could perhaps question whether a realist epistemology is adequate for any kind of fiction. It is surely wrong to think of knowing as knowing our knowing, but the writer, however objective his subject matter, is telling it as it is in the sense of how he at least sees it. But even if all his imaginings involve himself, this does not mean that his self-imaginings need amount to much.

More masterly musings from the immortal mind of the mortal Magister McInerny.

God and Man at Harvard…

Perhaps for the most prestigious college in the United States, as Pope Benedict predicted for the world in general, the first faint feather-brush stirrings of the faith’s resurgence  will come from deep within the Church’s patrimony, even as these same flutterings blow the dust off the most profound human prayer ever composed, having lain dormant these many years in Crimson shadows…

Read about it here.

They made me play Jesus.

I am hereby relieved for any and all responsibility for having a God complex.  Though in my case, it should probably be God simplex.

Love will disappear from the face of the public world

I’m curious about a connection between this:

We know that the modern world is coming to an end . . . . At the same time, the unbeliever will emerge from the fogs of secularism. He will cease to reap benefit from the values and forces developed by the very Revelation he denies . . . . Loneliness in faith will be terrible. Love will disappear from the face of the public world, but the more precious will be that love which flows from one lonely person to another . . . . The world to come will be filled with animosity and danger, but it will be a world open and clean. –Romano Guardini, The End of the Modern World (Epigraph to Walker Percy’s The Last Gentleman)

and this:

The Social Network, the End of Intimacy, and the Birth of Hacker Sensibility by Dan Haggard
Think about the person closest to you and the connection that you have. Feel the sense of familiarity and trust. Think of the wonderful experiences your intimacy has enabled. But now imagine this intimacy is torn away. Their eyes intimate indifference. You’re just one of the billions of people to whom they could possibly devote their time. There is nothing that defines your shared connection and makes it stand apart. You’re just the tag end of an economic calculation; a move in a game that will likely never end.

Haggard’s article is long but worth the read. One of these days, I hope to get around to reading the Guardini book, too.

Fragments of a Homily on the Woman at the Well

Heard in mass this morning.

Water, thirst. Ironically, given the amount of water on the planet, many people on suffer from thirst.

Water may be the most perfect metaphor for how we experience God. We immerse ourselves in it. God’s love is like that.

Soft but powerful force, relentless, eventually wears down the hardest stones.

What good is knowing? What we need is resolve, to navigate the desert of false choices.

Living water is poured out in baptism.

For my wife, born on the Annunciation

If God is in His heaven

And all’s well on the earth

Thanks to Gabriel’s announcement

That a virgin would give birth


If by the Incarnation

The flesh is made divine

Then ‘Comfort ye my people’

Gives dignity to wine


Then mirth and cheer are charity

And laughter is a grace

And the song of love is written

In lines upon a face


When solemnities are happy

And fasting yields to feast

And the  yoke of penance eases

For the layman and the priest


Then everyone’s oasis

Upon the Lenten way

Is March the twenty-fifth

[raise glass] That’s Deirdre’s birthday