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The Conversation Continues

A critic asking whether there is any good Catholic literature being written today? It must be a Tuesday. Over at the Millions, Nick Ripatrazone argues that those who can't find a Catholic presence in contemporary literature just aren't looking in the right places:

How to account for any possible perceived dearth of contemporary Catholic literature and art? I have learned the problem is one of definition. In the same way that paradox is endemic to Catholic doctrine, and that postconciliar Catholic writing is wrought with personal and parochial tensions, Catholic imaginative literature remains a conundrum to many critics, both Catholic and secular....The stereotype of simplistic Catholic-themed or influenced writing is often earned by one-note spiritual narratives with no basis in the hard work of real faith. Have writers forgotten the narrative arc of Luke, the complexities of John? Christ suffered; salvation requires sacrifice. No easy redemption in life, so why expect it on the page?...Thinkers likeDenis Donoghue,Mark Bosco SJ,James Martin SJ, andPeggy Rosenthal[...] allow the beauty of Catholic literature and artistry to shine without buffing away all things counter, original, spare, strange. It is time to be catholic in consideration of a literary Catholicism: such paradoxical inclusivity is in concert with the life, and mystery, of Christ.

For the full essay, go here. For more conversation on the topic, see here and here.

About the Author

Anthony Domestico is an assistant professor of literature at Purchase College, SUNY. His book on poetry and theology in the modernist period is forthcoming from Johns Hopkins University Press.



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Maybe there just don't happen to be Catholic anglophone novelists of the caliber of Greene, O'Connor, etc. alive at the moment. Blaming the critics for the lack of attention to contemporary Catholic writers just won't do -- if the writers really were all that good, they shouldn't need critics to "articulate" for the public what they (the writers) are trying to say.Or maybe they don't have any great messages or themes, unlike Greene, et al. Maybe the contemporary Catholic writers don't *know" the classic message(s) of Catholicism, at least not the Catholicism of the Greene (and my) generation. I must admit I have given up searching for fine Catholic novelists mainly because I find that practically all the novels I begin aren't worth finishing. I do like Catholic-born Richard Russo's work. However, compare his theological assumptions about human nature with Graham Greene's. Greene saw human nature as weak and prone to sin, sometimes even really bad sin. Russo's view of people seems entirely benign -- his people are often weak or ignorant of others, but they never are tempted to do anything really bad, but neither do they believe in God, so there is no hard moral struggle in his work. I think that Russo's *aesthetic* problem is that though his people have difficulty sometimes with human relationships , they do not believe in God and Original Sin, so there is no deep spiritual dimension to them. Nothing of ultimate importance ever happens. I read him anyway because I enjoy his characters, and sometimes he's extremely funny about human foibles. But a great writer? Not without more spiritual depth. I keep hoping he'll discover God. Big talent, small themes.

David Lodge?  Julia Alvarez?  Robert Girardi?  Jon Hassler?  Piers Paul Read?

How long a list is needed?  There are people writing from a Catholic perspective, libera or conservative, in various European languages.

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