Graciously Effaced: Saintseneca’s Dark Arc

Guest post by Isaac Anderson

Last August, Billy Corgan, of Smashing Pumpkins fame, got some press for declaring God the “great, unexplored territory” of rock music.

I’ve thought about Corgan’s comment of late, while listening to the record that’s been on repeat in my apartment the last month. Saintseneca’s Dark Arc is a meditation on doom, according to Zac Little, the band’s frontman and lyricist. Though that word may mislead, for this record is bleak at times, but luminous too. Nods to death or impermanence are often met with a resistance to the same:

If only the good ones die young
I pray your corruption come
Swift like a thief in the night
Right I pluck my right eye right out

Little is a fighter, of sorts—When I crave a split lip, he sings in “Happy Alone,” I’ll get it quick—and the doom expressed here wakes the listener to the appetites bucking beneath apathy, the desire to not go down without a fight.

[Read more...]

The Contemporary Novel of Belief, Part 2

In yesterday’s post I wrote about author and critic Paul Elie’s contention that few contemporary writers depict characters struggling with religious belief in novels with contemporary settings.

Among other things, I argued that his conviction that having a contemporary setting is somehow supremely valuable is both short-sighted and literalistic—that Elie has a rather narrow understanding of what “contemporaneity” actually means.

Of course, another possible response to Elie is to simply marshal another list of writers who have, in fact, written books that fulfill his requirement to the letter of the law. Say, a list that would include Ron Hansen’s Atticus, Anne Tyler’s Saint Maybe, Haven Kimmel’s The Solace of Leaving Early, Ann Patchett’s The Patron Saint of Liars, Larry Woiwode’s Poppa John, and Christopher Beha’s What Happened to Sophie Wilder. Not to mention stories and novels by the recently deceased authors Oscar Hijuelos, John Updike, Andre Dubus, and Reynolds Price. (Or the rise of novelistically-rich memoirs.) [Read more...]

The Contemporary Novel of Belief, Part 1

Writing a response to a published essay can be seen as public service, a way of contributing to the larger cultural conversation. On the other hand, writing several responses within a relatively short period of time can easily come across as carping or sour grapes.

That consideration is very much at the forefront of my mind as I set out here to extend a running dialogue I’ve been having with Paul Elie, the author of The Life You Save May Be Your Own, a braided biography of four American Catholic authors: Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, and Walker Percy.

A year ago, Elie published an essay in the New York Times, “Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?” to which I replied in the Wall Street Journal. In an interview just published at Dappled Things, Elie was asked to respond to my WSJ piece. I’ve engaged in a similar exchange with Dana Gioia, whose “The Catholic Writer Today” appeared recently in First Things, with my response, “Cultural Anorexia,” following on their website.

Because Elie and Gioia are not only friends of mine but writers I admire—and because the debate has been eminently civil so far—I’m hoping to avoid the charge of carping if I thwack the tennis ball over the net just one more time. [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X