Friday, December 13, 2013

The Catholic Writer Today

Writer of the "Golden Age"
In the December issue of First Things, there is an interesting piece by poet and former NEA chairman, Dana Gioia.  His article, The Catholic Writer Today, has sparked quite a lot of buzz on the blogosphere.  Gioia's premise is that Catholics today do not have the same kind of visible presence in the arts, especially literature, that they once enjoyed in the middle of the last century.  Gioia goes on to explore why this has occurred.  Rather than recapitulate every point he makes, I offer a few reflections.  First of all, Gioia rightly says that the golden age of American Catholic writing was not a renaissance.  It was, and so far remains, America's only Catholic moment in the arts.  For readers of this blog, it is worth noting that Gioia dates this era to the time Flannery O'Connor was writing.  It begins around 1950 and ends with her death in 1964. One could argue there was a lot of good Catholic writing that came both before and after that.  Ernest Hemingway (who Gioia claims was Catholic - hmmm), was already a major player before O'Connor was out of diapers.  At the other end of her life, by 1964 Walker Percy was just beginning to hit full stride and many of Thomas Merton's poems had yet to be published.  I do agree with blogger Eve Tushnet that Gioia fails to take into account how much the world of writing and book publishing has changed in the last 60 years: "There’s no acknowledgment of how completely the structure of artistic production and audience has changed since 1950. The change has been seismic. Publishing is an especially extreme example, and it happens to be Gioia’s example, so let’s roll with it. Both making books and finding the books you want to read are totally different now. Telling a young Catholic writer to go have a career like Flannery O’Connor’s is like telling a young Catholic father to get a good stable union job at the Chrysler plant. Thanks, yeah, I’ll get right on that."  To read more of Tushnet's review go to her blog.  For another interesting take on Gioia's article check out the Dec. 8th post on Heather King's blog.  And by all means, do read The Catholic Writer Today.
- Mark

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hemingway as Catholic writer? I guess that expands and distorts the definition of "Catholic writer."