–Author William Giraldi contributed an essay to Commonweal magazine as part of a series in which Roman Catholic intellectuals explain why they have left or remained in the church. A Catholic from birth, his article was posted on the magazine’s website earlier this week and is entitled “Why I left…and yet…” Here’s an excerpt from the conclusion:
…I am a Catholic—in culture, in imagination, in storytelling, in my specific grammar of understanding—because of Dante and Hopkins and Chesterton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh and Simone Weil, because I can’t undo the determining effects their work had on my notion of what literature and thought should be. Nor can I undo my upbringing and the influence it still exerts on my sensibility. […]
When Orwell, writing about Waugh, remarked that one really can’t be Catholic and grown-up at the same time, he was getting at the wild implausibility at the hub of Christianity. But “God” and “Christ” are, above all, terms of poetry, of allegory and metaphor and myth. […]
My new regard for the artistic possibilities of my Catholic past coincided with my rising certainty that unless a novel sets out to confront the sublime, the sacred, the state of the soul—and I mean soul in both the sacral and the secular sense—the novelist is not firing on all eight cylinders. If fiction writers are content to fashion only worn simulacrums of reality, more domestic dramas—the marriage is shot, the bills are due—then they’re barring themselves from an inner cosmos it is art’s job to encounter. The clergy don’t have exclusive say over the sacred; it is the province of writers and poets too.
Giraldi’s novel Hold the Dark was recently made into a motion picture by Netflix.
The Catholic Herald also has an article on the same subject by Mathew Schmitz which contains this reference to Waugh’s letter dated 2 September 1952 to Clarissa Eden whom Waugh was rather persecuting for her marriage to Anthony Eden who was divorced (Letters, p. 381):
When a woman he loved decided to leave the Catholic Church, Evelyn Waugh inquired: “Did you never think how you were contributing to the loneliness of Calvary by your desertion?” Like so much of Waugh’s writing, this was unkind – and absolutely correct.
–Religious historian and blogger Stephanie Mann recommends Waugh’s Robbery Under Law as appropriate reading for the day of remembrance of the Roman Catholic martyr Miguel Pro:
On the memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro the Jesuit priest executed on November 23, 1927 in Mexico, it seems appropriate to remember how Evelyn Waugh, in the introduction to the second edition of his biography of then Blessed Edmund Campion, mentioned that the “Martyrdom of Father Pro in Mexico re-enacted Campion’s in faithful detail” and that the “haunted, trapped, murdered priest is our contemporary.”
She also includes several extended quotes from Robbery Under Law on the subject.
–The online literary magazine Literary Hub has posted a collection of antiquarian dust wrappers, among which is one created by Evelyn Waugh for one of his own novels. The collection was put together by Emily Temple who explains the dust wrapper as we know it today:
…didn’t even exist until the 1820s, and in the beginning they were usually plain, utilitarian things meant quite literally to prevent the books from gathering dust, and they were often discarded by booksellers before display, as much more effort was put into the cloth or cardboard bindings underneath. But beginning at the turn of the last century, publishers began producing decorated dust jackets and simpler bindings (for one thing, it was a lot cheaper), and by 1920 this was the norm.
So just for fun, and because it’s almost the holidays and we all need some Feel Good Content, I’ve collected 32 beautiful, interesting, or otherwise appealing dust jackets of classic works, mostly from the 1920s and 30s. NB that I left off a lot of classics whose covers would be familiar to contemporary readers—no one needs to see that same old covers of The Great Gatsby or Gone With the Wind on a list like this. You’ve seen them a million times already. But have you seen the first edition of Decline and Fall, designed by Evelyn Waugh himself? Either way, read on for some fine and utterly unproblematic book porn.
Readers may be interested to know that a copy of the Waugh dust wrapper illustrated in the article is available from Facsimile Dust Jackets LLC. They also have others available.
–Finally, Scoop features in two recent press reports. In Money Week, a UK-based financial magazine, Matthew Partridge sees in it a lesson for today’s investors who seem to be spooked by their perceptions of technology companies:
Early in the story, one of the old hands, Corker, gives Boot a crash course in journalism, relating the story of Wenlock Jakes, a “star” foreign correspondent whose reports are “syndicated all over America”. On one occasion Jakes accidentally goes to the wrong country, but his completely fictitious report about a revolution is then picked up by other journalists who repeat and embellish it. The result: “government stocks dropped, financial panic, state of emergency declared”. “In less than a week there was an honest to God revolution under way.” […]
The idea that perceptions help create the reality we believe we are merely observing, which then in turn determines our perceptions, is known as reflexivity. […] Technology firms, especially those that are in the early stages of development, are particularly dependent on investors keeping faith with them, because they may need several infusions of capital before they become profitable. The classic example is Amazon, which nearly went bankrupt in the immediate aftermath of the bursting of the dotcom bubble. It was only when the retailer showed that it could turn a profit that credit markets were reassured.
And in the Daily Express, BBC correspondent and program presenter Edward Stourton chooses Scoop as one of his six favorite books.