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

Employees must wash their hands before returning to the work of the Lord…

(Sacristy towel rack at Cathedral of St. Joseph the Workman, La Crosse, Wis.)

Auction Item

Ja Kool

People may be asking (or maybe they aren’t), Why doesn’t that guy put up more posts? Well, what happened is that I started working on another essay and presentation on the way Walker Percy used the work of so called existential philosophers in his novels, this time Kierkegaard. Naturally, I moved to Copenhagen to do research at the Søren Kierkegaard Research Centre Foundation (FSKC).

And naturally, I drive a bus to support my independent scholarly activities. Yes, I grew a mustache.

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 librarian shall have charge of the library…”

The Girls of Summer (For Webb)

Surfing with Mel: Getting meta for the opening scene, losing my job, etc.

The opening shot is straight out of the comments, as is the notion of making a film (thanks, Not-Ted).

An Open Letter to Steve Taylor

On the off chance you are Googling around looking for the San Diego Reader interview about Blue Like Jazz or the San Diego Reader review of Blue Like Jazz and instead wind up on this blog post by the fellow who did the San Diego Reader interview about Blue Like Jazz and the San Diego Reader review of Blue Like Jazz, hi there!  You mentioned Flannery O’Connor in our interview.  You also introduced me to Flannery O’Connor through your song “Harder to Believe Than Not To” way back when.  A friend of mine wanted to suggest that you make a film version of O’Connor’s short story “Parker’s Back.”  Just thought I’d put it out there.  Leave a comment if you like!

Interview with the man who introduced me to Flannery O’Connor

Sometimes, the day job is kind of fun.

At Home: Gongolians

So a long time ago, I used to be a writer.  One of the things I wrote about was going to different people’s houses for dinner.  I liked doing it, and sometimes, the stories were pretty good.  Here’s one I remember well.  I sometimes think about publishing a book collecting these.  If only I knew of a publishing kollektiv that might take an interest.  Anyway, it’s not perfect – the book version would be more detailed and the writing would be cleaned up –  but it’s pretty good raw material:

“How is it that you go up to go down?” asks Jennifer — Steven’s lady — speaking at a pace that feels rabbitlike compared to Steven’s.

In saying this, she anticipates my own comment; it took me a while to find this complex, tucked as it is on a hemmed-in hill street. Then it took me a while to find the entrance — surely there was some main gate; surely you didn’t wind your way in through these narrow concrete alleyways? And then, it took me still longer to actually reach their apartment. I could see it, up there on the second story, from where I stood. But every time I went up a set of stairs, I found myself being shunted back down before actually reaching the landing. I felt as if I was in an M.C. Escher illustration.

[Read more…]

Tradition!

Just what you’ve all been waiting for:  another installment of Lickona and a Jew talk Christmas.

Round One:  Positively Irenic!

Round Two:  Grumpy, Grumpy, Grumpy.

And now, Round Three:  A Jew’s Favorite Christmas Movies.

Even a miracle needs a hand!

The theology of Rankin-Bass…REVEALED!

A blog is born.

https://korrektivpress.com/2011/11/16096/

Stationery Life with Wall Street Journal

For C.M.

The high plains desert butte that serves as my desk
Awaits a sunset to match this Monday’s sunrise
Of Cyclops – the name I call my computer screen.
The incarcerations and liberties of envelopes clutter
The silence, overcrowded as any Sing Sing orRiker’s Island.
The inky indictment of pens and leaden assumptions
Of pencils stick their fatal shafts and quills

Into a coffee-cup drained of life some time
In the flux between the Business section and Personal.
My keyboard arrays its slightly raised runes
To proffer the potential poetry of a profit margin
Lurking behind the chime of the market bell,
Unread as piles of stock reports, pensees
Of profit, dividend arias, and litanies of loss.

And the smell of perfume hangs past morning –
Your perfume, White Linen, wafting its assaults
Over my cubicle, mystic in its ambush
(Though you won’t know it perhaps until much later).
You announce routine military exercises along the border,
And with hosiery’s hush you’ll cross and uncross your legs
A thousand times each day. I count them all.

The keyboard’s furrowed grey chiclets, trim and zen
As pebbles in a Buddhist garden,
Please the fingers combing for figurative gems.
A squared layer of snowfall, sheets of vellum
Rest on the office stationery shelf.
The space bar’s staccato hammer threatens to dislodge them
Like dynamite whiting out mountain slopes

To inoculate them against avalanche and ice dam.
An American-made paper clip’s early
Immortality is twisted awry by
The diplomacy of our last phone conversation –
The mangled silver wire sits by the wall jack, a futile
Inchworm of outstretched steel, a snarling cork-screw.
It gathers nothing now, collects nothing, holds nothing.

Papers fall apart. Reports cannot hold.
The stapler and tape dispenser are moved
Into defensive positions behind
The plastic-armored computer tower. The rapid fire
Of a rear-guard memorandum (“Re: Us”)
Dares me to a pre-emptive strike against mergers
That would delete my nerve and put us back together again.

Overheard.

First Son: Dad, do you think you’re the only person who laughs at your jokes?

Probably.

The shepherd speaks of a mystery….

…and we can’t help but listen:

 “The term mystery is generally applied to situations in which there is no immediate answer and in these cases a mystery is something that seeks a solution. The searcher or researcher keeps probing in anticipation that an answer will be found and the mystery will be solved. That’s the situation in the society in which we live – we expect that every single mystery is going to be resolved, that we can pinpoint and come to an explanation for every single thing that exists, every single problem, for every single situation and thought.

“Mysteries have to be resolved, and because we live in an age of television and instant communication, most mysteries have to be solved within 60 minutes – given a little time for commercials. That’s not possible! That just doesn’t happen when you’re dealing with the sacred mysteries, the mysteries of God. God is not a problem to which we need to find an answer; our relationship with God is not a problem for which we need to seek a solution.

“Sacred mystery draws us to desire to know God. Our desire to know God leads us to indeed know him and to draw ourselves closer to him, and God makes himself accessible to us in Jesus Christ. I say this to the kids all the time, ‘Look into the mirror and you’ll see how smart God is because this is what God looks like.’ God is so smart that he chose to come among us looking like us, because you never know where you’re going to see Jesus. He’s sitting right next to you and looks just like you. How wonderful and awesome is God.” 

– Bishop William P. Callahan, Tenth Bishop of La Crosse, Wis., delivered during the 2011 (diocesan) Catechetical Conference: “Transforming Hearts to Christ…Both Mine and Others,” Aquinas High School, La Crosse, Wis., July 30. 

 

Hey guys?

Look, I know it’s not especially Katholic or Kierkegaardian or any such thing, but for the past few weeks now, I’ve been Blogging for Dollars over at the Reader site.  Mostly about movie stuff.  Some of it tries to be funny. We’ve got this here Twitter feed now.  Just thought I’d let y’all know.

Then it’s true! – Catholics DO read The Catholic Times!

For that reason, I hope everyone here at the Korrektiv makes some timie to visit Joyce Uhlir over at West Central Wisconsin Catholic.

Ms. Uhlir was kind enough to go through the trouble to hunt down me and then my editors for permission to reprint one of my articles from our diocesan newsaper. She’s doing good work up Nort’ of us here in southwestern Badgerland.  

And look! Better than stamps or coins or missionaries’ shrunken heads, the WCWC folks collect – Stained Glass windows!

As a side note, (the image under discussion is a bit provocative, so for those queasy about too much flesh – even tastefully done – a forwarning!) speaking of Rachel weeping for her children, here’s this with an explanation here. Stirring, to say the least. And a sign of hope, if Mr. Gjertson’s talent is a sign of anything…