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.

from Territorial Rights by Muriel Spark

Territorial Rights isn’t Spark at the top of her game, but even Spark at half power is more inspired than most writers at their best. It takes place in Venice, where a handful of English acquaintances improbably, ridiculously, end up at the same pensione. One is a young man, Robert, who has recently walked out on Curran, his chicken queen, in Paris in order to chase Lina, a young Bulgarian art student who may or may not be under surveillance by Bulgarian spies (the novel was published in 1979 and takes place not long before then).

Robert disappears, perhaps at the hands of those same Bulgarian spies, and Lina befriends Curran, who in turn gets her a job doing sociology research for his friend Violet, yet another English expatriate who does research abroad for a private detective agency. Leo, who is traveling with Grace, who is in Venice to find out about her former lover, Robert’s father (also in Venice, with yet another adulterous companion) on behalf of Robert’s mother (back in England).

Lina moves into the attic apartment of Violet and soon after begins sleeping with Leo (Robert, remember, has gone missing).

Another scream, a bang, a man’s voice protesting, trying to placate. Violet precipitated herself out to the landing, in time to see the little lift descending and, through its glass windows, Lina with her head thrown back dramatically and, her hands clutching her head, giving out frightful animalistic noises.

The lift passed the upper floor of Violet’s apartment and reached the ground floor of the building. Violet, followed by Curran, had run down the flight of stairs to meet the descending lift, while Grace, outside Violet’s landing joined the banister audience.

Lina flew out of the lift, still yelling wildly, barefoot, dressed in a huge yellow flannel nightdress and throwing her arms around in a way which was quite alarming to watch. Violet caught old of her, and Curran, too, tried to hold her, both joining the exclaiming chorus of people above in the tall echoing palazzo. ‘What’s the matter? … Lina, whatever is the matter? You’ll catch your death … Stop … Wait! ….’

But Lina had struggled free in a flash and had opened the front door. She ran out on to the landing-stage. She turned with her back t the water for just a moment in order to cry out ‘Leo is the son of a Jew — I have slept with a Jew — God, oh God! — I must cleanse myself! I die for shame!’ And with a further shriek the girl half-turned and dropped into the canal.

That would be a canal in Venice.

You’re Welcome!

Perhaps the Most Important Catholic Writer who you’ve never heard of…

And his name is not Walter Percy or Walker Miller – or even this guy’s name – but it could be

wolfe

the Dylanologists

We interrupt this casting call to bring you some really old news about Bob Dylan. Somehow I missed this when it came out at the end of Spring, so if one of the others has posted this already, well … so what?

I’d read about Dylan’s use of the Yakuza autobiography, which made a funny kind of sense, and then of course his impersonation of the Civil War poet, which made a lot more sense, but some of the stuff in this A.V. Club article shows how he took it to a whole ‘nother level. Surfing with Mel fans, take note:

When Warmuth found similarities between phrases in Chronicles and Hollywood screenwriter Joe Eszterhas’s book about the Monica Lewinsky scandal, American Rhapsody, he was dumbfounded. “Even I was thinking, ‘There’s no chance,’ but as it turns out, some of the more salty lines in Chronicles comes from Eszterhas!”

Jack London, John Dos Passos, and even self-help author Robert Greene are all fair game.

Dylan’s response to charges of plagiarism?

“All those motherfuckers can rot in hell,” he said. “Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff….It’s an old thing,” he said of appropriation. “It’s part of the tradition. It goes way back.”

Makes you wonder why anybody would spend $250 for the right to quote from his lyrics to Gotta Serve Somebody, Trouble in Mind, and I and I.

Maybe add “sucker” to that list.

Art Is a Joke

‘[The Goldfinch] can strike the eye […] from afar [as a true-to-life image of a bird]. [But] Fabritius, he’s making a pun on the genre […]  a masterly riposte to the whole idea of trompe l’oeil […] because in other passages of the work – the head? the wing? – not creaturely or literal in the slightest, he takes the image apart very deliberately to show us how he painted it. Daubs and patches, very shaped and hand-worked, the neckline especially, a solid piece of paint, very abstract. […] There’s a doubleness. You see the mark, you see the paint for the paint, and also the living bird. […]

‘It’s a joke, the Fabritius. It has a joke at its heart. And that’s what all the greatest masters do. Rembrandt. Velazquez. Late Titian. They make jokes. They amuse themselves. They build up the illusion, the trick – but, step closer? it falls apart into brushstrokes. Abstract, unearthly. A different and much deeper sort of beauty altogether. The thing and yet not the thing.’

From a monologue by Horst, an art dealer (of sorts) in The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

Follow-up to follow-up to follow-up to previous day’s post

Familia Romana - p. 19

From LINGVA LATINA PER SE ILLVSTRATA – PARS I: FAMILIA ROMANA, by Hans H. Ørberg.…

Follow-up to follow-up to previous day’s post

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From See Dick and Jane Run by William S. Gray and Zerna Sharp…

 

 

What The Korrektiv Did for Its October Vacation

Perhaps Percy’s most intriguing work, Lost in the Cosmos is a weird yet satisfying book – a hybrid of philosophical inquiry, satire, cultural analysis, multiple choice questions, thought experiments and (“What the hell, why not?” you can hear Percy say) even fiction. Perhaps the book most closely resembles Melville’s own loose but not-so-baggy monster, Moby Dick. But Lost in the Cosmos stands well on its own. The quality and quantity of presenters at the conference attested to its enduring worth—with more than 40 papers covering everything from liturgy to pornography to interstellar exploration to mimetic theory to Marshall McLuhan.

Look what came in the mail…

DSC_1283

Long awaited (at least by me) – Suitable Accommodations: An Autobiographical Story of Family Life: The Letters of J.F. Powers, 1942-1963. 

It’s been edited  by the author’s daughter Katherine A. Powers, and an uncorrected proof copy was sent to me, unsolicited. They must think I’m some sort of Powers scholar – and given half a chance I would be…

Already dipped into the thing – and lots of gems in the introduction by Ms. Powers:

“Well before the publication of his first novel Morte D’Urban in 1962, my father…planed to write a novel about ‘family life,’ an intention that persisted for the rest of his life. … The man falls in love, gets married, has numerous children – but has neither money nor home. He finds no pleasant ease and little of the fellowship of like minds he associated with the literary life [he didn’t have Korrektiv] he had thought was to be his own. The novel would be called Flesh, a word infused with Jansenist distaste, conveying a bleak comedy and terrible bathos of high aesthetic and spiritual aspiration in hopeless contest with human needs and material necessity.”

“The letters that make up this story begin with Him at age twenty-five and the acceptance for publication of his first short story. They then leap forward to letters from prison [where Powers, a pacifist, served time as a conscientious objector during WWII] and on through those recording high hopes, great promise, and a passionate courtship and marriage to Betty Wahl. Then comes the black comedy of children, five all told, great poverty, bad luck, and balked creativity. Central to this progression is the matter of where and how to live. Jim’s married life was dominated by the search for ‘suitable accommodations,’ for a house that would reflect and foster the high calling of the artist. In the course of their married life… the couple moved more than twenty times.”

And one more:

“In his letters to his friends…He often adopted a tone of macabre relish for the hopelessness of his situation: the absence of a house, the presence of many children and a desperate wife, the amount of time he had spent on the mechanics of life, the piddling nature of his daily doings, and his longing for and lack of camaraderie.

“‘We have her no lasting home’ was his constant refrain, drawing, with feigned smugness, on Christian teaching… In any case, the phrase always had the torque of a joke, for the Powerses were forever on the move, leaving some houses out of the urge to quit the country (whichever one it happened to be at the time [America or Ireland]), laving other houses because they were taken by eminent domain or sold out from under them. But Jim also meant the statement as a summary of his essential belief: that life on earth doesn’t make sense and that when you understood that, you understood reality. Still, for a person who held that the world is an obstacle-strewn journey toward one’s proper home (heaven), he was more than ordinarily affronted by hardship and adversity, to say nothing of mediocrity and dullness. He was no stoic, and he took it all personally.”

Then Ms. powers quotes one of her father’s 1979 letter to her, who was “then thirty-one and living, as were his other children, far away: ‘You referred to [Powers’ son] Boz’s plan for me to make a lot of money so we can move back to Ireland. He may be right. I see it as idealism, but what else would work for our family? A big house not too far from Dublin, [daughter] Jane weaving and dyeing in one room, [son]Hugh philosophizing and botanizing in another, Boz and family in one wing, [daughter] Mary etching in one tower, Katherine reading in another, Mama in the garden, Daddy with The Irish Times and The Daily Telegraph in his study.’

“To which scheme I say to myself now, as I did then: Oh, dear.”

 

Is NOTHING sacred…?

anne upped

Apparently not.

Doctor Thomas More
    or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lapsometer

Photo by Gsmith

Photo by Gsmith

About a month ago, I finished reading Dr Percy’s stab at science-fiction, Love in the Ruins. I had no time to blog about it then, and have little time to blog about it at the moment, but here are a few scattered, superficial, spoiler-free initial thoughts:

  • My overall impression was similar to that of Korrektiv fellow-traveler Craig Burrell, who reviewed the novel in 2011. Like him, I think the premise is great, but the telling of the tale is overlong and under-focused. Some severe trimming would have improved the book considerably.
  • That said, the main cast is nicely drawn, and the creeper-covered neo-New South setting felt, if not believably realistic, then persuasively consistent. Also consistently unsettling, with its islands of shiny modernity and pockets of old poverty amid the ruins of the [1940s-1960s(?) ’70s(?)] ‘Auto Age’. The automated carillon of the abandoned church in the middle of nowhere, playing religious and secular Christmas carols — and college football fight songs! — on the Fourth of July, echoing off a derelict drive-in movie screen, is especially haunting.
  • Overall, the book was not — and Dr Percy, in his essay ‘Concerning Love in the Ruins, says the book was not meant to be — a prophetic prediction of the future (as, e.g., Brave New World has ended up being). Still, this line from Dr Tom More, describing the gadgets of his own shambolic future-world, hit close to home: ‘Appliances […] are more splendid than ever before, but when they break down nobody will fix them.’
  • Percy also predicted the rise of steampunk! Tom More climbs into his colleague’s ‘electric Toyota bubbletop, a great black saucer of a car and silent as a hearse’ and notes the anachronistic contrast of its interior styling: ‘These days it is the fashion to do car interiors in wood and brass like Jules Verne vehicles.’
  • Speaking of stylistic throwbacks: The diabolical, deodorized, flat-topped Art Immelman reminds me of the Harry Trumanesque space alien from the ‘THE LAST DONAHUE SHOW’ thought experiment in Lost in the Cosmos. They both seem like good fits for a David Lynch movie.

Have you read Love in the Ruins? What did you see, like, dislike, feel, think?

Thrill me with your acumen.

Call for Book Reviews

call for reviews

Please consider it.We can’t pay but you could get a free book out of it.

Don’t make me get all Sally Struthers on y’all…

Achtung Korrektiv

Look, are we going to do this or not? I mean, the universe is broadcasting on an open channel here:

o-BILL-HADER-NEW-YORK-MAGAZINE-570

This article begins, “We have no idea what a self is. So how can we fix it?” Rally, Korrektiv, rally!

Off the Shelf

Korrektiv Summer Reading Klub Redux!

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(Of course, I’ll be reading it on the Kindle this time around.)

New from Korrektiv Press: Surfing with Mel

So there’s this.

And of course, it all started here.

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.

Graces

That Southern Expat reminded me of the splendid Eve Tushnet.

That the splendid Eve Tushnet reminded me of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s new short story in The New Yorker.

That F. Scott Fitzgerald’s new short story in The New Yorker treats of grace in the manner in which it does.

Ars longa, caenum facile…

 

RIP Mike McGrady – aka one-part Penelope Ashe.

“It came after a night of reading ‘Valley of the Dolls,’ ” he later told Newsweek, “which I couldn’t put down because I was asleep.”

JOB