Monday, August 23, 2004

On Fellow Writers Updike & Greene ('Habit of Being')...

Whoever was responsible for that editorial on John Updike's novel, Rabbit Run, should be confined for a while... If you get a chance you might like to look at that book. It is true that the sex in it is laid on too heavy. It is so burdensome that you want to skip those parts from sheer boredom; but the fact is, that the book is the product of a real religious consciousness. It is the best book illustrating damnation that has come along in a great while.

As between me and [Graham] Greene there is a difference of fictions certainly and probably a difference of theological emphasis as well. If Greene created an old lady, she would be sour through and through and if you dropped her, she would break, but if you dropped my old lady, she'd bounce back at you, screaming "Jesus loves me!" I think the basis of the way I see is comic regardless of what I do with it; Greene's is something else...

From "The Habit of Being"...

When we get our spiritual house in order, we’ll be dead. This goes on. You arrive at enough certainty to be able to make your way, but it is making it in darkness. Don’t expect faith to clear things up for you. It is trust, not certainty.

I feel that you are distracted, particularly when you say, for instance, that it is B.'s writing that interests you considerably more than he does. This is certainly not so, no matter how good a writer he gets to be, or how silly he gets to be himself. The human comes before the art. You do not write the best you can for the sake of art but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit.

When the Protestant hears what he supposes to be the voice of the Lord, he follows it regardless of whether it runs counter to his church's teachings. The Catholic believes any voice he may hear comes from the Devil unless it is in accordance with the teachings of the Church.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

"Apart from emulative envy, the only aspect of envy that does not seem to me pejorative is a form of envy I have myself felt, as I suspect have others who are reading this book: the envy that I think of as faith envy. This is the envy one feels for those who have the true and deep and intelligent religious faith that sees them through the darkest of crises, death among them. If one is oneself without faith and wishes to feel this emotion, I cannot recommend a better place to find it than in the letters of Flannery O'Connor. There one will discover a woman still in her thirties, who, after coming into her radiant talent, knows she is going to die well before her time and, owing to her Catholicism, faces her end without voicing complaint or fear. I not long ago heard, in Vienna, what seemed to me a perfect rendering of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and was hugely moved by it, but how much more would I have been moved, I could not help wonder, if I were in a state of full religious belief, since the Ninth Symphony seems to me in many ways a religious work. Faith envy is envy, alas, about which one can do nothing but quietly harbor it."
-Joseph Epstein, Envy

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it.

40 Years Ago...

...Flannery O'Connor died of lupus at the age of 39. Amy Welborn offers suggestions on where to begin with O'Connor's works. Also, a Washington Times column, and J. Bottom link.