Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Some Catholic Writers

I have an addiction. I admit it. I am a bibliophile. I love books. I love to buy them, feel them, stack them, hoard them, and occasionally read them.

For my holiday reading, I just finished a book about other books. Of course, one danger of reading books about books is that it makes one want to go out and acquire more books.

The book is SOME CATHOLIC WRITERS by Notre Dame's Professor RALPH MCINERNY. McInerny is himself a Catholic Writer being the author of many novels as well as scholarly works. Professor McInerny is perhaps best known for the FATHER DOWLING series of mystery novels.

In SOME CATHOLIC WRITERS, Professor McInerny profiles 35 writers all of which were at least nominally Catholic, fallen away Catholic, or in the case of one non-Catholic, had what McInerny considers a Catholic sensibility.

All the usual suspects are here: FLANNERY O'CONNOR, WALKER PERCY, G.K. CHESTERTON, HILLAIRE BELLOC, ROBERT HUGH BENSON, GEORGES BERNANOS, ETIENNE GILSON, GRAHAM GREENE, JACQUES & RAISSA MARITAIN, THOMAS MERTON, J.F. POWERS, EVELYN WAUGH and others. There are also some surprises. Professor McInerny has included JAMES JOYCE, F. SCOTT FITZGERALD and ANTHONY BURGESS among his Catholic writers. Although Joyce and Burgess, the author of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, were fallen away Catholics who had renounced their faith, McInerny says that their Catholic upbringing informed their writing and haunted their lives. Professor McInerny also thinks that a Catholic sensibility informs the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Also surprising is the inclusion of a non-Catholic, WILLA CATHER. McInerny believes that Cather's novels DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP and SHADOWS ON THE ROCK are two of the best American "Catholic novels." Professor McInerny also debunks the post-modern revisionist view of Cather as a lesbian. In the same vein, Professor McInerny criticizes the view of KATE CHOPIN's controversial novel THE AWAKENING as a proto radical feminist tract. THE AWAKENING ruined CHOPIN'S career as a novelist when it was published in the late 19th century because of its frank descriptions of female sexuality. McInerny says that CHOPIN was an orthodox Catholic and that her novel is really about the effects of the sin of adultery.

SOME CATHOLIC WRITERS packs a tremendous amount of information into only 154 short pages. This is a great read for anyone looking for insight into Catholic literature and Catholic culture.

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