Original Sin and the Warp Effect

Fleeing_bayeux_tapestryOne of the great writers—to my recollection, Flannery O’Connor—said something to the effect that everything we touch is warped by original sin, even our greatest virtues. If I am interpreting her correctly, this means that any display of a moral act is polluted somehow, flecked with impurity, however slight, simply by way of being performed by a human agent.

Of course, in a very simplified definition, original sin is the concept that a human being, through some primordial dissociation from God’s will—is by nature a creature morally flawed and faulted. This dissociation riddles his existence with tendencies, penchants, bents that are as innate to him as the desires of a lion to eat meat, a plant to seek sunshine.

More precise yet, they are as entwined with his makeup as a leopard is with his spots, a giraffe with her height, a gazelle with his speed. Indeed, the lower animals act by instinct and there is some rough barometer to their need. They may lay waste to field or to another population, but in doing so, there is a level of satiety that they are aiming for, and it is directly associated with their appetites.

Man, on the other hand, has no cap to his desires; they are boundless. Further, unlike animals, humans are not necessarily motivated by physical want. Pride is a metaphor applied to the lion; it is a deadly reality when applied to a human, as much a part of a man as his blood type. [Read more...]

A Place Where We Can Talk

By Brian Volck

2350462798_5608b3bbd5_m“Somewhere is better than anywhere.”
—Flannery O’Connor

In my sophomore year of college, Professor Karanikolas took a semester to tear apart my writing—which until then I thought quite good—and rebuild it into something worth reading. He returned many of my early essays with marginal comments like, “Oh my God,” and “You’ve made the best of a very bad business here.” But the reeducation process was a painful necessity if I was ever to become a writer, and I’m grateful for those many hard lessons.

One of my later essays that semester included a sentence (the content of which I’ve long ago forgotten) that, by itself, would have been embarrassingly trite. In the margin, though, the professor wrote in red ink pen, “You had to do a lot of writing beforehand to say this.” [Read more...]

Death Comes for the Deconstructionist: An Interview with Daniel Taylor

By Caitlin Mackenzie 14288135_05fd9e848a_m

Daniel Taylor’s recent novel, Death Comes for the Deconstructionist, is a postmodern “whodunit” mystery that asks whether we discover truth or create it. Caitlin Mackenzie, of Wipf and Stock Publishers, talked to Daniel about the utility of detective fiction, the inspiration for his characters and landscape, and what spurred him to write his first novel after thirty years of nonfiction and short fiction.

Caitlin Mackenzie: Although you have published short fiction, your previous books have been nonfiction and this is your first novel. What inspired the genre move? How does fiction operate in a way for you that nonfiction does or cannot?

Daniel Taylor: The common denominator to almost all my writing over thirty years has been story telling—analyzing it and doing it. It does not feel greatly different to me to move between nonfiction and fiction. Memoir, for instance, uses all the devices and strategies of fiction—from scene to plot to dialogue. And we know how much invention goes into even recounting our memories. The biggest change is the absence in fiction of any remembered event to serve as a guide and limit to one’s imagination. Literally anything goes in fiction and that makes it both easier and harder. [Read more...]

Hazel Motes Is Out of Time

wisebloodTCM broadcast John Huston’s film version of Wise Blood yesterday, and I wound up watching it again. The whole movie is available on YouTube, so there was no need for me to delay my plans for two hours. I did it anyway.

I wanted to see some perfect casting—Brad Dourif, Mary Nell Santacroce, and Ned Beatty, to name just a few—and Huston’s low-budget cinematography. The story, set in post-World War II, is shot in 1970s Georgia, and the blend of the earlier and later dates gives a timelessness to the production, one I think Flannery O’Connor, author of the novel upon which the film is based,  would appreciate.

[Read more...]

Thinking About Poverty

homeless-man-sleeping-with-his-bible1What better time than Advent to ponder what poverty means? After all, Christ became poor for our sakes, emptying himself of his divinity as he emptied himself into our humanity.

So what does poverty mean? Here are some dictionary definitions:

Poverty (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary):

1a: the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions; b: renunciation as a member of a religious order of the right as an individual to own property; 2: scarcity, dearth 3a: debility due to malnutrition; b: lack of fertility (of the soil).

[Read more...]


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