Tuesday, September 16, 2008

my prayers for a Catholic literary revival yield novel (sic!) fruit

I am seeing fruit already from incorporating Idyll Press' prayers for a Catholic literary revival into my daily orisons. 

How so?  

I finally finished Mariette in Ecstasy by Ron Hansen. That I finished it at all is a fruit of my prayer, I think. It's a slim novel. I should have read it in a couple of days. 

Let me back up a little bit.

When I pray for a Catholic literary revival, it is in part for today's literary scene to discover and read folks like Chesterton, Waugh, Greene, O'Connor, Percy, Tolkien, etc.  I pray for avid readers like myself to discover writers who create worlds peopled by characters whose foibles and triumphs take place in the moral universe in which we all toil -- a Catholic universe, whether we recognize it or not. 

Ron Hansen is a novelist who in his other life is both a professor of literature and a permanent deacon in his parish. Like the best Catholic novelists, his work is published, critiqued (to much acclaim) and read in secular and not religious circles. 

Mariette in Ecstasy is said to be his masterpiece, although it is his Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford that I recommended be put on the shelves of the Pauline book centers who are participating in piloting the new Storytelling in the Catholic Imagination category

So dutifully, when I acquired Mariette while book hunting for my book business, I opened it and began reading.

The prose is achingly beautiful.

But the plot is slow.

I am a greedy reader. I favor genre books. I love good pulp fiction. Murder, mayhem, ghosts and vampires, knights in armor, lots of action. 

Mariette unfolds slowly. But beautifully.

Eventually I put it down. It began to seem like eating vegetables when I really wanted ice cream. 

Then I started my prayer for a Catholic literary revival, having commited myself in email to incorporating it into my daily prayer.

So a couple of days ago I picked Mariette up again. This time I got hooked. It became a page-turner. I lost sleep over it.

I turned the last page this morning, early.  I rose from my bed with that familiar aftertaste of awe, transported and transformed by time spent in another world. 

Ah, fiction. 

1 comment:

Kathleen Valentine said...

"Mariette in Ecstasy" is one of the most beautiful and compelling books I've ever read. I found its subtlety to be fascinating and delicious. I've read it at least four times and am always in awe of how exquisite it is. The ending is, in my opinion, shattering.