A Slight Shift in Direction

A Slight Shift in Direction September 17, 2012

Over the past week, I’ve produced one current-events analysis of just over 1,000 words, and two personal essays, each running about 2,000 words. I found the personal essays much more enjoyable to write. For me, the fun of writing comes from turning a nifty phrase, thinking up an apt simile, using words to paint an eye-grabbing but intelligble picture. This is easiest to do when I happen to know the subject matter inside-out, and I’m afraid I know my own world — both its inner and outer courts — much more thoroughly than I do, for example, events in the Middle East, events in the Catholic Church, or even events on Patheos.

For the sake of playing to my strengths, I’m going to re-focus ever so slightly. Going forward, you probably will start seeing more longer pieces about my own life. They won’t read, God forbid, like rambling Live Journal entries — not if I have anything to say about it. My goal here is not to share, in the AA sense, but to stylize; to process the raw literary material closest at hand until I learn to spot potential segues into fiction. If things work out according to plan, one of these days — and I hope sooner, rather than later — I’ll just start making shit up. When that transition is complete, I’ll be sure to start sending the finished products off to Sewanee Review instead of posting them here. No use in confusing anyone.

I realize many of you readers come here expecting punditry and opinion pieces. I’ll still cook those up from time to time. To meet you all halfway, and to live up to my billing as a Catholic blogger, I’ll try to find topical connections for the longer, more personal stories. Here at Patheos, our editors give us a long lead, and I mean to use that length responsibly. However, I realize I’m gambling with your patience. If the DoWC’s new direction turns out not to work for you, I apologize in advance, and promise not feel slighted should any of you decide to un-subscribe or simply to stop visiting.

A word about Catholic identity. The American Conservative’s current online edition features an essay by Robert Dean Lurie titled “The Conservative Kerouac.” Lurie builds a case that Kerouac’s upbringing in small-town New England, and in the pre-Conciliar Church, played the definitive role in shaping his artistic vision and personal philosophy. As evidence, he offers Kerouac’s reply to an interviewer who asked why he didn’t write about Jesus: “You’re an insane phony … All I write about is Jesus.”

You don’t have to say it — I deserve comparison with Jack Kerouac even less than Dan Quayle deserved comparison with Jack Kennedy. And I’ll admit Jesus is sometimes the last thing I write about. But I suspect I’ll start finding many more open slots for Him, given maximum creative license, instead of feeling obliged to hunt for Him like Waldo in the tableaux of pop culture and politics. (“Look, there’s Jesus now, in The Hunger Games!”) This trick takes a strong faith and a strong imagination, and I admire people who can do it. Maybe one day I’ll be able to myself. But for now, I have no choice but to trust my own muses, hoping they’ll lead me to Jesus in guises and places recognizable to me, and maybe only to me.

One thing I’ve noticed: Catholics love to claim offbeat writers and artists as their own, provided they’ve won a measure of popular acclaim. It’s a smart “na-nanny, boo-boo” in the World’s face. Even before Kerouac’s rehabilitation, critics never tired of pointing out the Ignatian spirituality hidden in the sardonic prose of Mary Karr, or the eucharistic quality of Andy Warhol’s vision. Now, I’m not as good as any of these people and never will be. But I do like to think I’ve got one good book in me. My hope is that, if I can manage to dig it out, and if it sells, one of you will write about how, for all the sex and violence in my stories, I remained at heart not only a good Catholic boy but a staunch Maurrasian integralist.

Yeah, I’m a dreamer.

"Saint Joseph of Cupertino.'Nuff said."

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