Rod Dreher on Aunt Emily, Uncle Alasdair, & Cud’n Walker

… along with Charles Taylor via David Brooks, and some guy named Ari Schulman.

Apparently Dreher has just recently read The Moviegoer for the first time. Which in itself is amazing: from Louisiana, a writer, and a convert to Catholicism, and he’s just now getting around to the most important Catholic novel of the last 50-odd years? In any case, he certainly gives it due consideration.

The mash-up with MacIntyre is especially interesting. Nothing would seem to be further from Heidegger’s universal ontology (to which Percy, through Binx, pays considerable homage) than MacIntyre’s Virtue Ethics. But Dreher (and Schulman) are absolutely right, and it fits perfectly:

MacIntyre claims, “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’” But for Binx, this question can only be answered if he can answer the prior question, “Of what world or worlds do I find myself a part?” And indeed, the attempt to answer this question is one of his central preoccupations, manifesting as his fascination with “the singularities of time and place.”

And all of a sudden I wonder if I should change my paper topic for the upcoming conference at the Walker Percy Center.

All this leads Dreher (after New York and perhaps Paris) to a rather interesting point of departure:

I begin to perceive that the loss of my Roman Catholic faith was a bigger catastrophe than I have even suspected until now. I was not raised Catholic, but my conversion was entirely genuine. I put on another’s man’s clothes and thought they were my own. I really did, and I believed it with all my heart, soul, and mind. And then, over an agonizing four years, it all unraveled, in what felt more like a flaying.

For me, this brought to mind Shusaku Endo, who often spoke of a faith as awkward as a forced marriage, as uncomfortable as a Western suit of clothes (“This clothing did not suit me. The clothes and my body were not made for each other.”)

At the end Dreher adds that he may well be working on a novel of his own. I’m sure it’ll be great, but while you wait, you might try another novel set in a “society in the final stages of a breakdown”, Bird’s Nest in Your Hair. Now only $17.06!


  1. Jonathan Webb says

    Dreher is Eastern Orthodox now, so I guess he still believes in most of it. He was right about the Lavender Mafia, but if he thinks the Eastern Church is free of corruption he’s dreaming. I’ve been waiting for him to go full-on Gergen for years, but I’ve got that part wrong. You’re right on that reading Percy at an earlier point might have saved him from apostasy. Great post. Thanks.

  2. Angelico Nguyen, Esq., OP says

    When Dreher compared his conversion as putting on another man’s clothes, Endo’s line about the Western suit flashed into my mind, too.

    MacIntyre’s Virtue Ethics is much less familiar to me — little more than a name I’ve heard. Thanks for providing a possible inroad via Percy.

Speak Your Mind