Friday, November 17, 2006

From "Habit of Being", pg. 572

This book of C.S. Lewis on prayer is a good one but I don't like to pray any better for reading it. I also just read one of his called Miracles, which is very fine. Deceptively simple. You really need to read every sentence twice. Go among the biblical scholars, says he, as a sheep among wolves.

To Betty Hester in 'Habit of Being', pg. 458

You confuse self-abandonment with a refusal to be yourself...As for the success, my tongue was not in my cheek. Success means being heard and don't stand there and tell me you are indifferent to being heard. Everything about you screams to be heard. You may write for the joy of it, but the act of writing is not complete in itself. It has its end in its audience. Writing is a good example of self-abandonment. I never completely forget myself except when I'm writing and I am never more completely myself than when I am writing. It is the same with Christian self-abandonment. The great difference between Christianity and the Eastern religions is the Christian insistence on the fulfilment of the individual person.

From "Habit of Being", pg. 457

[Nathaniel] Hawthorne interests me considerably. I feel more of a kinship with him than any other American, though some of what he wrote I can't make myself read through to the end.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

From "Mystery and Manners"

To be great storytellers, we need something to measure ourselves against, and this is what we conspicuously lack in this age. Men judge themselves now by what they find themselves doing. The Catholic has the natural law and the teachings of the Church to guide him, but for the writing of fiction, something more is necessary...

The Hebrew genius for making the absolute concrete has conditioned the Southerner's way of looking at things. That is one of the reasons why the South is a storytelling section...Nothing will insure the future of Catholic fiction so much as the biblical revival that we see signs of now in Catholic life. The Bible is held sacred in the Church, we hear it read at Mass, bits and pieces of it are exposed to us in the liturgy, but because we are not totally dependent on it, it has not penetrated very far into our consciousness nor conditioned our reactions to experience.

Friday, July 14, 2006

From "Mysteries and Manners"

We Catholics are very much given to the Instant Answer. Fiction doesn't have any. It leaves us, like Job, with a renewed sense of mystery. St. Gregory wrote that every time the sacred text describes a fact, it reveals a mystery. This is what the ficiton writer, on his lesser level, hopes to do. The danger for the writer who is spurred by a religious view of the world is that he will consider this to be two operations instead of one. He will try to enshrine mystery without the fact, and there will follow further separations inimical to art. Judgment will be separated from vision, nature from grace, and reason from imagination.

These are separations we see in our society and exist in our writing. They are separations which faith tends to heal, if by faith we mean "walking in darkness" and not a theological solution to mystery.

It is when the individual's faith is weak, not when it is strong, that he will be afraid of an honest fictional representation of life; and when there is a tendency to compartmentalize the spiritual and make it resident in a certain type of life only, the supernatural is apt to become lost.

--Mysteries and Manners pg 184 & 151 respectively

Via the Crendenda essay

Naw, I don't think life is a tragedy. Tragedy is something that can be explained by the professors. Life is the will of God and this cannot be defined by the professors; for which all thanksgiving...The Devil can always be a subject for my kind of comedy one way or another. I suppose this is because he is always accomplishing ends other than his own.

Who's Afraid of Flannery O'Connor?

"The reader wants his grace warm and binding, not dark and disruptive."
   - The Catholic Novelist in the Protestant South

Via this Douglas Jones essay on FOC's depictions of dark grace.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

From the short story "The Enduring Chill"...

When people think they are smart - even when they are smart - there is nothing anybody else can say to make them see things straight, and with Asbury, the trouble was that in addition to being smart, he had an artistic temperament. She did not know where he had got it from because his father, who was a lawyer and businessman and farmer and politician all rolled into one, had certainly had his feet on the ground; and she had certainly always had hers on it. She had managed after he died to get the two of them through college and beyond; but she had observed that the more education they got, the less they could do. Their father had gone to a one-room schoolhouse through the eighth grade and he could do anything.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

On the title of her novel "The Violent Bear It Away" (from Matthew 11:12)

One thing I observe about the title is that the general reaction is to think that it has an Old Testament flavor. Even when they read the quotation, the fact that these are Christ's words makes no great impression. That this is the violence of love, of giving more than the law demands, of an asceticism like John the Baptist's, but in the face of which even John is less than the least in the kingdom - all this is overlooked. I am speaking of the verse apart from my book; in the book I fail to make the title's significance clear, but the title is the best thing about the book. I had never paid much attention to that verse either until I read that it was one of the Eastern fathers' favorite passages - St. Basil, I think. Those desert fathers interest me very much.

Letter from "Habit of Being"...

I have a much less romantic view of how the Holy Spirit operates than you. The sins of pride and selfishness and reluctance to wrestle with the Spirit are certainly mine but I have been working at them a long time and will be still doing it when I am on my deathbed. I believe that God's love for us is so great that He does not wait until we are purified to such a great extent before He allows us to receive Him.

Grace, to the Catholic way of thinking, can and does use as its medium the imperfect, purely human, and even hypocritical. Cutting yourself off from Grace is a very decided matter, requiring a real choice, act of will, and affecting the very ground of the soul...In the Protestant view, I think Grace and nature don't have much to do with each other. The old lady [the one who would've been a good woman if she'd been shot every moment of her life], because of her hypocrisy and humanness and banality couldn't be a medium for Grace. In the sense I see things the other way, I'm a Catholic writer.