Do we need a Catholic literary revival?

By:

I was in middle school when I first put pen to paper and began drafting what I thought would one day be an epic novel. Yes, I was one of those dreamers, and I don’t regret it one bit. When I wasn’t reading, my summer days were spent daydreaming on my parents’ back patio. Paper — either a half-used composition notebook or a stack of sticky-notes — gel pens and pencils were always at the ready in true middle-school aesthetic. 

Throughout high school, this love of writing continued and expanded. While I kept my trusty notebooks handy, I migrated any writings worth saving and pursuing onto an old Dell laptop gifted to me by my grandpa. 

While many of these ideas poured out into words are still too precious for me to share with anyone — with the exceptions of my siblings who are too nosy to take no for an answer — my love for fiction writing is what spurred me to pursue a degree in creative writing — not English or even journalism — from my alma mater.

Well, college was a bit of a wake-up call when it came to fiction. With a professor who I greatly admired (yet who came from a different worldview than mine), I quickly learned that sharing stories that emerged from my Catholic imagination was not going to be easy. I never intended to be a Catholic novelist; I didn’t even know they really existed at the time. (As a side note, during a Catholic scholarship interview before I began college, a priest and professor asked, after learning that I wanted to major in creative writing, if I had read any Flannery O’Connor, to which I answered no, and who is he?) But everything I did stemmed from my ever-maturing understanding of what it meant to be a Catholic in the world, and I knew my writing, whether fiction or otherwise, could only stem from that experience. 

Needless to say, I quickly diverted much of my focus to nonfiction pursuits, learning how to share my own stories, many of which overlapped with my faith. 

Yet, there is still a small part of me that wishes I could devote more time to fiction, to diving into another world and creating a narrative that reveals some of God’s truth, goodness and beauty in a yet-untold story. 

A few weeks ago, we received a letter to the editor responding to our recent In Focus, “Books for the modern Catholic.” In the letter, Anthony Yanik noted that “No mention was made in the reading list for the modern Catholic of a single book of Catholic fiction. Is it that so few are published? Or is it that most Catholic publishers avoid accepting such manuscripts?” 

As someone working in the periodical side of Catholic publishing, I happen to know a few people working with books, so I know this conversation comes up. While certain publishers have pushed to include more fiction over the years, we as Catholics are still far behind when it comes to publishing fiction. 

But our Catholic faith has a long history of faithful creatives. From the 20th century alone are authors such as G.K. Chesterton, J.R.R. Tolkein, Walker Percy, Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Green — and those are just the names that immediately come to mind. Often these creatives — like saints — seem to come in waves and clusters. Which means a Catholic literary revival could come at any time — both inside and outside of Catholic publishing.

This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.

 

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