Monday, October 29, 2007

From essay "The Church and the Fiction Writer"...

What the fiction writer will discover, if he discovers anything at all, is that he himself cannot move or mold reality in the interests of abstract truth. The writer learns, perhaps more quickly than the reader, to be humble in the face of what-is. What-is is all he has to do with; the concrete is his medium; and he will realize eventually that fiction can transcend its limitations only by staying within them. Henry James said that the morality of a piece of fiction depended on the amount of 'felt life' that was in it. The Catholic writer, in so far as he has the mind of the Church, will feel life from the standpoint of the central Christian mystery: that it has, for all its horror, been found by God to be worth dying for. But this should enlarge not narrow his field of vision. [Via here.]

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On the admired new Archbishop of Atlanta...

Usually I think the Church's motto is The Wrong Man for the Job; but not this time. (Found here.)

On Faith...

...let me tell you this: faith comes and goes. It rises and falls like the tides of an invisible ocean. If it is presumptuous to think that faith will stay with you forever, it is just as presumptuous to think that unbelief will... 'Lord, I believe; help my unbelief' [is] the most natural and most human and most agonizing prayer in the gospel, and I think it is the foundation prayer of faith...Faith is a gift, but the will has a great deal to do with it. The loss of it is basically a failure of appetite, assisted by sterile intellect. (Found here.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

From "Conversations with Flannery O'Connor"...

The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him and his problems will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is seeing them as natural. (pg. 110)

From "Conversations with Flannery O'Connor" ..

The best American writing has always been regional. But to be regional in the best sense you have to see beyond the region. For example, the Fugitives at Vanderbilt in the '20s felt that the South they knew was passing away and they wanted to get it down before it went, but they had a larger vision than just the South. They were against what they saw coming, against the social planner, fellow traveller spirit that came along in the next ten years. They looked to the past and future to make a judgement in their own times. (pg. 109)

From "Habit of Being"...

I wouldn't spend much time worrying about [spiritual] dryness. It's hard to steer a path between indifference and presumption and [there's] a kind of constant spiritual temperature-taking that don't do any good or tell you anything either. (pg. 581)

From "Habit of Being"...

It all reminds me of the Tates getting upset because Cardinal Spellman writes bad novels. I think it's charming that Cardinal Spellman writes bad novels. If he wrote good novels, I'd be worried about the Church.
(pg. 588)

It sure don't look like I'll ever get out of this joint. By now I know all the student nurses who "want to write," -- if they are sloppy & inefficient & can't make up the bed, that's them--they want to write. "Inspirational stuff I'm good at," said one of them. "I just get so taken up with it I forget what I'm writing."
(pg. 583)

Friday, August 31, 2007

From "Habit of Being"...

Don't think I write for purgation. I write because I write well.

(--via Pen and Palette)

Monday, July 30, 2007

From Habit of Being, pg 307...

The Church is founded on Peter who denied Christ three times and couldn't walk on the water by himself. All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful. Priests resist it as well as others. To have the Church be what you want it to be would require the continuous miraculous meddling of God in human affairs, whereas it is our dignity that we are allowed more or less to get on with those graces that come through faith and the sacraments and which work thorugh our human nature...Human nature is so faulty that it can resist any amount of grace and most of the time it does. The Church does well to hold her own; you are asking that she show a profit. When she shows a profit you have a saint, not necessarily a canonized one. -- (Flannery O'Connor to Cecil Dawkins 12/8/58. Habit of Being, 307) (via Open Book)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

From "Habit of Being"...

...I mean about the same thing that [Joseph] Conrad meant when he said that his aim as an artist was to render the highest possible justice to the visible universe. For me the visible universe is a reflection of the invisible universe. [pg. 128; via Deep Furrows]

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

From Fiction is a Subject with History....

I would to put forward the proposition, repugnant to most English teachers, that fiction, if it is going to be taught in the high schools, should be taught as a subject and as a subject with a history. The total effect of a novel depends not only on its innate impact, but upon the experience, literary and otherwise, with which it is approached. No child needs to be assigned Hersey or Steinbeck until he is familiar with a certain amount of the best work of Cooper, Hawthorne, Melville, the early James and Crane, and he does not need to be assigned these until he has been introduced to some of the better English novelists of the 18th and 19th centuries...

It is one thing for a child to read about adultery in the Bible or in Anna Karenina and quite another for him to read about it in most modern fiction. This is not only because in both the former instances adultery is considered a sin, and in the latter, at most, an inconvenience, but because modern writing involves the reader in the action with a new degree of intensity and literary mores now permit him to be involved in any action a human being can perform. (Link via Deep Furrows.)

From "The Habit of Being"...

When I went to Iowa I had never heard of Faulkner, Kafka, Joyce, much less read them. Then I began to read everything at once so that I didn't have time I suppose to be influenced by any one writer. I read all the Catholic novelists, Mauriac, Bernanos, Bloy, Greene, Waugh; I read all the nuts like Djuna Barnes and Dorothy Richardson and Va. Wolfe (unfair to the dear lady of course); I read the best Southern writers like Faulkner and the Tates, K. A. Porter, Eudora Welty and Peter Taylor; read the Russians, not Tolstoy so much but Dostoevsky, Turgenev, Chekhov and Gogol. I became a great admirer of Conrad and have read almost all of his fiction. I have totally skipped such people as Dreiser, Anderson (except for a few stories) and Thomas Wolfe. I have learned from Kafka, though I've never been able to finish one of his novels. I've read almost all of Henry James -- from a sense of High Duty and because when I read James I feel something is happening to me, in slow motion but happening nevertheless. I admire Dr. Johnson's Lives of the Poets. But always the largest thing that looms up is The Humerous Tales of Edgar Allen Poe. I am sure that he wrote them all while drunk too. [August 28 1955; p 98-99] (Excerpt via Deep Furrows.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Letter to Elizabeth Hester...

Compared to what you have experienced in the way of radical misery, I have never had anything to bear in my life but minor irritations — but there are times when the worst suffering is not to suffer, and the worst affliction, not to be afflicted. Job’s comforters were worse off than he was, though they did not know it. If in any sense my knowing your burden can make your burden lighter, then I am doubly glad I know it. You were right to tell me, but I’m glad you didn’t tell me until I knew you well. Where you are wrong is in saying that you are the history of horror. The meaning of the redemption is precisely that we do not have to be our history, and nothing is plainer to me than that you are not your history.

(Quote via NPR's All Things Considered; transcribed by Maud Newton.)

Advice on Writing to Elizabeth Hester...

You would probably do just as well to get that plot business out of your head and start simply with a character or anything that you can make come alive...Wouldn't it be better for you to discover a meaning in what you write rather than to impose one? Nothing you write will lack meaning because the meaning is in you.

From "A Memoir of Mary Ann"

The creative action of a Christian's life is to prepare for his death in Christ.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

"The Habit of Being" 139

I once had the feeling I would dig my mother's grave with my writing too, but I later discovered this was vanity on my part. They are hardier than we think.