Who Is Justin Cartwright?
As I’ve mentioned before, my bi-weekly after Mass treat is opening the Boston Globe to Katherine Powers’ column, “A Reading Life.” She has led me to rediscover authors once read, but long forgoten (by me). Spurred on by her, I’ve recently picked up the stories of Nikolai Gogol. At least I had heard of Gogol.
Today, however, she extols a writer I had never heard of: the South-African born, London-residing, thankfully still-living Justin Cartwright. Here is part of what she says:
It is clear from Cartwright’s writing that he is not religious – indeed, quite the reverse. “One of the things that has struck me all my adult life,’’ he writes in “Oxford Revisited,’’ “is the extraordinary amount of energy that has been wasted on the hope that life has meaning.’’ It doesn’t, he says; but it is also clear from his novels that he laments the squandering of the moral currency that was built up by the Judeo-Christian tradition. This is the shared understanding and unexamined acceptance built over a couple of millennia that there really is such a thing as right and wrong, that, to put it in Cartwright’s terms, behaving decently and ethically is “the only way to live.’’ It may be that all the badness we see today – and which fills his novels – went on just as much in the past as it does now, who knows? But since David Hume, shall we say, and the permanent sundering of “is’’ and “ought,’’ no writer has really been able to explain morality. The great book on this subject is Alasdair MacIntyre’s “After Virtue,’’ and if you find you have become a fan of Cartwright, you will read that book with satisfaction and, perhaps like me, find yourself wandering around the place locked in interior debate with both writers.
Have others read Cartwright? Would they recommend him … if not “After Virtue,” after Gogol?