Archive for May, 2009

Friday is Rain Day

I haven’t written in awhile, I know. I’ve been doing more practical things; working and spending time in person with real people. Which is kind of a let down, I was going to write reviews for Sita Sings the Blues and That Evening Sun, but I haven’t and I’m not sure I will at this point. So today, I’ll just share some thoughts from Flannery O’Connor. These are from her essay “The Church and the Fiction Writer,” although I find that she writes so well that any medium can be swapped out for fiction, and the thoughts are still applicable.

A belief in fixed dogma cannot fix what goes on in life or blind the believer to it. It will, of course, add a dimension to the writer’s observation which many cannot, in conscience, acknowledge exists, but as long as what they can acknowledge, is present in the work, they cannot claim that any freedom has been denied the artist.  A dimension taken away is one thing; a dimension added is another, and what the Catholic fiction writer and reader will have to remember is that the reality of the added dimension will be judged in a work of fiction by the truthfulness and wholeness of the natural events presented. If the Catholic fiction writer hopes to reveal mysteries, he will have to do it by describing truthfully what he sees from where he is. An affirmative vision cannot be demanded of him without limiting his freedom to observe what man has done with the things of God.

If we intend to encourage Catholic fiction writers, we must convice those coming along that the Church does not restrict their freedom to be artists but insures it (the restrictions of art are another matter), and to convice them of this requires, perhaps more than anything else, a body of Catholic viewers who are equipped to recognize something in fiction besides passages that they consider obscene. It is popular to suppose that anyone who can read a phonebook can read a short story or novel, and it is more than usual to find the attitude among Catholics that since we possess the Truth in the Church, we can use this Truth directly as an instrument of judgement on any discipline at any time without regard for the nature of that discipline itself. Catholic readers are constantly being offended and scandalized by novels that they don’t have the fundamental equipment to read in the first place, and often thse are works that are permeated with a Christian spirit.

It is when the individual’s faith is weak, not when it is strong, that he will be afraid of an honest fictional representation of life, and when there is a tendency to compartmentalize the spiritual and make it resident in a certain type of life only, the sense of supernatural is apt gradually to be lost. Fiction, made according to its own laws, is an antidote to such a tendency, for it renews our knowledge that we live in the mystery from which we draw our abstractions. The Catholic fiction writer, as fiction writer, will look for the will of God first in the laws and limitations of his art and will hope that if he obeys these, other blessings will be added to his work. The happiest of these, and the one he may presently least expect, will be the satisfid Catholic reader.

And while your reading that, go ahead and put on the song “Funeral” by Band of Horses – it’s my favorite for the day.


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