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April 2009

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet

As he tells the story, in 1971 composer Gavin Bryars was fooling around with a tape loop of an old tramp singing a fragment of a hymn, “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet.”

When I copied the loop onto the continuous reel in Leicester, I left the door of the recording studio open (it opened onto one of the large painting studios) while I went downstairs to get a cup of coffee. When I came back I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual, and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping.

Later he wrote a quietly evolving instrumental accompaniment for the loop. The original 1975 version was tailored to fit one side of an LP and was about 25 minutes long. In 1993 Bryars reworked it for CD, resulting in a 74-minute version. For this recording he also added the voice of Tom Waits. The above is an excerpt from it.

I’ve always wondered about those people who were quietly weeping: where are they now?

(Quotation from the liner notes of the 1993 version.)


Summer Is Here

Current temperature at my house: 83F / 28C. It’s about 3:15 in the afternoon. I know you folks in northern realms are just now getting well into spring, but in effect our spring is over, and summer has begun. We’re beginning now to have the weather that the northern part of the USA will have in July. Bill Finch, the garden writer for the local paper, says we have six seasons, as follows:

Spring: February 15-April 15
American summer: April 15-June 15
Gulf summer: June 15-August 15
Hurricane summer: August 15-October 15
Fall: October 15-December 15
Winter: December 15-February 15

Note that there are three summers. And our winter is a pretty poor excuse for one: the temperature doesn’t get below freezing very often. Finch’s “Fall” might be called “American Fall;” it’s the closest we come to a real autumn, anyway.

Just thought you ought to know. And I guess this is a bit of a complaint, too.


From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

Meaning: from Shakespeare’s poetry and Francesca Murphy’s deep and rich theological work to...Dr. Who.

I just thought I ought to let everybody know that IF you’re a fan of the later incarnations of the show—for instance, the Tom Baker period—and IF you have a Netflix subscription, and IF you notice there the three disk set that includes the first episodes and IF you think it would be a lot of fun to see what happens at the very beginning of the longest-running science fiction tv show in the world: don’t bother.

These shows are truly awful. I didn’t even find them fun-awful, but just plain awful. Of course the props and effects are terrible, but that’s to be expected, and often part of the fun. But almost everything is bad here. The plots range from sloppy to incoherent. The dialog is dreadful. The characters are dull. The Doctor himself is a completely unappealing and uninteresting character, hostile and apparently not especially bright. Even the acting is shaky, with William Hartnell, who plays the Doctor, blowing his lines regularly. This will give you a good idea (though the person who put the video together apparently disagrees with me):

I was at first inclined to chalk all this up to the fact that it was 1963 and things were more primitive then, but then I remembered that The Twilight Zone, which was frequently brilliant, began in 1959. Ok, American tv producers probably had a lot more money to work with, but the Brits should have been as good or better at writing and acting.

On top of everything else, the disks are mispackaged or mismanufactured or something, because the first episode, which is the only one I really wanted to see, is apparently on disk 3. Which we haven’t gotten yet.. I would only recommend these to someone who’s enough of a fan to want to listen to various people involved in the production reminisce about it.

I’ve learned two things that have interested me: (1) the wonderful theme music, which reminds me of early Pink Floyd and which I’d always taken as a late ’60s thing done with a synthesizer, was there from the beginning, written by a composer hired for the job and realized in a BBC lab with various electronics. And (2): the sound made by the Tardis when it takes off and lands, and which has also been there from the beginning, was originally the sound of something scraped along (not across, I think) a string in a piano, and further messed with electronically. I always wondered why it was such an unpleasant sound. It’s supposed to suggest the ripping of the fabric of space and time.

Also, the Daleks were introduced very early and have changed hardly at all.

Why am I wasting our time on this? The number of people who read this blog and are interested in Dr. Who is probably between 0 and 5, inclusive.


For Shakespeare’s Birthday

Wanting to post a bit of Shakespeare for the occasion, I thought of these two passages.

From King Lear, bitterest grief:

KING LEAR: A plague upon you, murderers, traitors all!
I might have saved her; now she’s gone for ever!
Cordelia, Cordelia! stay a little. Ha!
What is’t thou say’st? Her voice was ever soft,
Gentle, and low, an excellent thing in woman.
I kill’d the slave that was a-hanging thee.
And my poor fool is hang’d! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
Pray you, undo this button: thank you, sir.
Do you see this? Look on her, look, her lips,
Look there, look there!

And from The Tempest, sweetest love:

MIRANDA: Do you love me?
FERDINAND: O heaven, O earth, bear witness to this sound
And crown what I profess with kind event
If I speak true! if hollowly, invert
What best is boded me to mischief! I
Beyond all limit of what else i’ the world
Do love, prize, honour you.
MIRANDA: I am a fool
To weep at what I am glad of.
PROSPERO: Fair encounter
Of two most rare affections! Heavens rain grace
On that which breeds between ’em!
FERDINAND: Wherefore weep you?
MIRANDA: At mine unworthiness that dare not offer
What I desire to give, and much less take
What I shall die to want. But this is trifling;
And all the more it seeks to hide itself,
The bigger bulk it shows. Hence, bashful cunning!
And prompt me, plain and holy innocence!
I am your wife, if you will marry me;
If not, I’ll die your maid: to be your fellow
You may deny me; but I’ll be your servant,
Whether you will or no.
FERDINAND: My mistress, dearest;
And I thus humble ever.
MIRANDA: My husband, then?
FERDINAND: Ay, with a heart as willing
As bondage e’er of freedom: here’s my hand.
MIRANDA: And mine, with my heart in’t; and now farewell
Till half an hour hence.

Text and some HTML borrowed from

The lines which get to me the most are, from Lear: I kill’d the slave that was a-hanging thee. The line falls like a lead anvil, and there’s a moment of satisfaction in it—did any man ever deserve killing more?—but only a moment. And of course Never, never...

And Miranda: I am your wife, if you will marry me; If not, I’ll die your maid.... Not I will be your wife but I am your wife. Happy the man whose love has said these words to him, or, since she probably didn’t have these words, the thought.


Christ the Form of Beauty, by Francesca Murphy

As regular readers know, the author of this book is a theology professor at the University of Aberdeen, and a frequent contributor to conversations here. This is a published version of her doctoral dissertation, and that partly accounts for the fact that I didn’t understand a great deal of it. Not only didn’t, but couldn’t: I just don’t have the intellectual background required. What’s missing on my part is twofold, I think. As a dissertation, it naturally builds on the work of the big names in the field, and I have no more than a minimal acquaintance with most of them. And there’s a natural tendency in any discipline to develop a specialized terminology, with which I’m unfamiliar. I don’t want to call it a jargon, because that sounds pejorative, but I can’t help feeling that certain words and phrases have a meaning that I’m not getting. For instance, the word “extended” in this passage:

In the realistic image, the extended fact and the interior world are related. The image is not ‘extended’ within the mind.

Often the sense of these things began to sink in as I went along, and I found that in leafing backward through what I’d already read it was often more comprehensible. Still, I can’t get around the fact that I just don’t have the prerequisite knowledge assumed of its audience. Reading it was a lot like reading the broadly similar work of Marion Montgomery: while accepting the fact that I’m not entirely getting it, I find much that I can connect with. So I’ll do my best to make an intelligent comment about it.

It’s a work of theology, philosophy, and literary theory, converging on theology. The major names involved are the Fugitive group (especially John Crowe Ransom and Allen Tate), William Lynch (S.J., I think?), and von Balthasar. The theme is the relationship of imagination to Christology: “It argues that our ability to enter into the Incarnation is in proportion to our willingness to imagine realistically.”

I think it’s accurate to say that a great deal of the book is taken up with the questions of what “imagine” and “realistic” mean, and with the question of whether imagination is useful, or perhaps necessary, in order for us to apprehend the real. And I think one of the conclusions is that the nature of Christianity is such that it is itself structured in a way that is not only eminently suited to be understood with the aid of the imagination, but presents this way of understanding as the only way of apprehending, or at least touching with the mind, Being itself. That is, it not only justifies but requires the imaginative—as opposed to the abstractly reductive—mind. Christ himself is an analogue.

The Son—not only seen statically, in a moment, but most of all in the drama of his life—is in a sense the work, the art work, of the Father and also represents the Father in a finite way that we can apprehend. He is however totally different from any “work” that we know in the ordinary course of things, or from the kind of work which we ourselves are, in that he is a work which works itself, fully and perfectly participates in its own shaping. The Father is God in his infinity and the Son is God in his apprehensibility, his knowability.

This makes Christianity a fundamentally aesthetic religion. Or perhaps I should say it is a religion whose fundamental mechanisms are aesthetic, or like those of aesthetics. It is not a religion which happens to have produced beautiful art, but one in which the process of beauty, so to speak, is intrinsic and essential. Beauty is, in a perfectly literal way, a sign of God.

The mental processes by which we know a work of art are essentially the same as those by which we know God, in this present life, with our present capacities and limits. Art, then, from both sides—that of the artist and that of the beholder of art, both the one who sees the vision and attempts to render it in some medium and those to whom he communicates it—is a way of knowing, and a way that is ultimately superior to, if of less immediate practical value than, the “univocal” way of scientific empiricism, which has no place for meaning, and for the organic complexity and ambiguity which point to meaning. Indeed, it has in the end no room for the human at all, as popular atheism continually reminds us.

All right, that’s as far as I’m going to try to go in trying to describe (or maybe just react to) the substance of the book. What I’ve said is certainly not a reasonable summary, and is maybe a little off to one side of the main point, but it’s what made the strongest impression on me. Here are a few passages that seemed important to me, and which express things I’ve long believed, however inarticulately:

Maritain describes beauty as the “radiance of all the transcendentals united.” This means that beauty is an objective property of being. If it is a transcendental—and thus coextensive with being—beauty is an element of everything that exists. It is not only present in lovely or majestic things such as seahorses or the Acropolis. Part of what it means to be, is to be beautiful. Beauty is not superadded to things; it is one of the springs of their reality. (p. 48)

Beauty is the meeting place of finite form with infinite light. It unites a definitely shaped form, upon which the mind can come to a stop, with an endless sea of radiant being, into which the mind can move without limitation. The human mind can only graps forms; boundless things elude it. …. Form concretizes a transcendence which overflows it, but which is its lure. (p. 142)

Beauty is reality under the aspect of form. (p.31)

Perhaps that’s a good explanation of the book’s title: how Christ is indeed the form of beauty.

And a good last word:

The beautiful is the presence of being. As such, it is pleasurable. This is not the aesthete’s escapist pleasure…. To accept the transcendentality of beauty is to make an act of faith in the giveness of being no matter how appalling or terrifying or repulsive. (p. 203-4)

And now maybe Francesca will tell me how much or little what I’ve said reflects what she actually meant.


Go Johnnies Go

Students at St. John’s College in Annapolis are known as “Johnnies.” St John’s is a small liberal arts school where the curriculum is the great books of (mostly) Western civilization—a non-Catholic Thomas Aquinas College, you might say. One of my children went there. It’s literally next door to the Naval Academy, and every year the Johnnies confront the Midshipmen in a ferocious battle of intellectuals vs. warriors. Guess who wins.

(Not that the Naval Academy guys aren’t themselves a very bright bunch, but I think the emphasis there is not on ideas.)

Update: I shouldn’t have to do this, but there is a comment on this post which apparently reads the above sentence in exactly its reverse sense. So for the benefit of careless readers: the meaning of the preceding paragraph is “The Naval Academy guys [and gals, I should add] are themselves a very bright bunch, but the emphasis there is different.”

Presumably the emphasis is on running a great navy, not on exploring philosophy and literature. I don’t want anyone thinking I hold our military academies in low esteem. The smartest guy in my high school class went to West Point.

Of course a careless reader is probably not going to read my explanation anyway.


Men, Women, Sex, and Babies

These are just a few off-the-cuff (what does that mean, anyway?) thoughts which I’m not going to make any great attempt to organize. They’re provoked by two things: one, this remark by Louise in a comment on the previous post:

What women seem to want (from my POV, though I am reluctant to extrapolate to others, even from my actual experience of being a woman!) is love and it seems, these days, that they are willing to settle for sex.

The other thing is the fact that my wife has been exchanging text messages since late yesterday afternoon with a friend who is out in Texas with her daughter, who is, as I write, in the process of giving birth to her first child. It’s now about noon on Sunday, and the young woman has been in labor since Saturday evening, and as far as my wife has heard the baby has still not been born.

I suspect Louise is right, although I admit the question of what and how women think about sex remains a mystery to me. All I can say with any confidence is that it isn’t the same as what and how men think.

It appears that a very large factor for women is the sense of being desired, of being affirmed as attractive. I was struck, many years ago, even as many women were asserting that there really wasn’t any big difference between men and women, by the fact that the covers of men’s magazines featured sexy women, and the covers of women’s magazines also featured sexy women. And I suspect there is often a misunderstanding of the connection between being desired and being loved. There is not necessarily, in the male mind, a connection between physical desire and emotional affection—there may be one, but there may well not be.

The ideal of the attractive woman is the beauty of youth, and, implicitly, of fertility. So we see women, long after the point where they can hope to compete in the beauty contest with young women, desperately trying to make themselves look younger, to emulate the look that goes with the ability to make babies.

And yet our culture has done everything it possibly can, and is always trying to do more, to separate the sexual act from procreation. Women try desperately to keep themselves forever looking as if they are of childbearing age and eligibility, and yet the child is the last thing they want. You don’t have to accept, or fully accept, the Catholic teaching about this to see that there is something fundamentally misguided about it. Our bodies are designed for reproduction, and this is more strikingly true for women than men—that is, more of their physical system is oriented to reproduction than is the case for men.

So it stands to reason that on some level, even if it’s unconscious, women would always have some awareness of the seriousness of sex. After our first baby was born—and it was a difficult birth—my wife said she was just amazed to think that every person walking around in the world was here because some woman had gone through what she had just gone through. And I remember thinking that I should always remember that every sex act had the potential to bring about the scene I had just witnessed (and, in an obviously limited way, participated in).

I think the separation of sex from marriage and procreation may be the single greatest cultural disaster of our time. If I had the power to make one idea fully accepted by young people, it would be the consciousness that sex naturally leads to babies, and that one should not engage in sex unless one is fully prepared to accept the baby. This applies just as well where contraception is being used, because as we all know it can always fail.

For the man, of course, this means accepting the woman as she really is, with all her potential fertility, not as an attractive toy forever frozen at the moment of greatest sexual attractiveness—always a flower, never a fruit. It’s hard to do, because the flower is so alluring, and because she is going to change in ways that are going to make her less physically alluring and also less concerned with him and more with their children. But the man should know that his love for a woman means being there with her, nine months after the fun, when she is struggling in pain and fear to bring forth the new life. A woman should be able to know that he will be there.

It is also to be feared that the man, growing used to the employment of anti-conceptive practices, may finally lose respect for the woman and, no longer caring for her physical and psychological equilibrium, may come to the point of considering her as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer his respected and beloved companion.

“Respected and beloved companion.” I think most of us, men and women alike, want to be one, and to have one. How old was Pope Paul VI when he wrote those words? 75 or so? Funny that a celibate old man could see that, while most of the world couldn’t. Or wouldn’t.

If a woman feels herself to be that respected and beloved companion, she won’t have to be so anxious about her looks as she grows older. And if a man feels himself to be such, he won’t feel so anxious about what the world thinks of his accomplishments, or lack thereof.


The New Flannery O'Connor Biography (2)

I finished this earlier in the week, and considered writing a somewhat extensive review. But I have a backlog of things I’ve been trying to write about, and some unfinished correspondence, so I think I’ll just confine myself to this short notice. Those who are very interested in O’Connor are probably going to read the book anyway, and I would recommend that they do so. I’m not wildly enthusiastic about it, but I certainly enjoyed it.

There have been some rather harsh reviews, like the one quoted here (at an interesting blog whose owner really should post more often). I think Wood makes some valid points but is overly harsh. It is true that the author doesn’t seem the most sympathetic possible biographer, and that the clammy hand of religious progressivism is in evidence from time to time, but on the other hand Gooch is far from unsympathetic. I think Rob Grano, aka Northern Agrarian, sums it up pretty well in his review at Amazon. And, in fairness, I don’t think Gooch intended to write a critical biography. It seems to me a good solid factual account, which is enough to make it interesting to any Flannery fan. And I must say I thought he ended it very touchingly.

P.S. Here is the review by the If-Flannery-Had-a-blogger; I broadly agree with it, too.


A Patch of Blue

I had to walk across campus just now, and it’s such an unbelievably beautiful day that I had to tell you about it. I don’t have my camera with me so I cut this patch out of another picture. Imagine the entire sky looking like this:

Add green things, flowers, handsome architecture, a pleasantly cool breeze: then I stopped into the chapel for a moment, and a student was playing the piano. He was embarrassed and was going to leave, but I told him to keep on. He wasn’t playing anything special, just a fairly ordinary chord progression that seemed familiar but that I couldn’t quite place. It reverberated nicely in the empty chapel. I’m sorry everybody couldn’t be there.

Now back to work...


The Death of Death

You could go here and read the Pope’s entire Easter message, but I was so struck by these passages that I want to repeat them here:

Indeed, one of the questions that most preoccupies men and women is this: what is there after death? To this mystery today’s solemnity allows us to respond that death does not have the last word, because Life will be victorious at the end. This certainty of ours is based not on simple human reasoning, but on a historical fact of faith: Jesus Christ, crucified and buried, is risen with his glorified body. Jesus is risen so that we too, believing in him, may have eternal life….

Ever since the dawn of Easter a new Spring of hope has filled the world; from that day forward our resurrection has begun, because Easter does not simply signal a moment in history, but the beginning of a new condition: Jesus is risen not because his memory remains alive in the hearts of his disciples, but because he himself lives in us, and in him we can already savour the joy of eternal life….

The proclamation of the Lord’s Resurrection lightens up the dark regions of the world in which we live. I am referring particularly to materialism and nihilism, to a vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and retreats cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be the definitive destiny of human life. It is a fact that if Christ had not risen, the “emptiness” would be set to prevail. If we take away Christ and his resurrection, there is no escape for man, and every one of his hopes remains an illusion.

Yet today is the day when the proclamation of the Lord’s resurrection vigorously bursts forth, and it is the answer to the recurring question of the sceptics, that we also find in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’?” (Ec 1:10). We answer, yes: on Easter morning, everything was renewed…

If this message sinks into your mind and heart, you begin to feel that you cannot contain it. You are living in a new world. You are not simply hoping for eternal life, but have begun to experience it, because the blank wall that loomed at the end of what you thought was your life is no longer there.

Maybe, like me, you aren’t always sure that you really believe this; maybe you even think the fact that you have such a desperate need for it to be true means that it probably isn’t. But when you do believe it you understand those well-known words of Julian of Norwich: all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.

My old friend Anja, who lives in Finland, tells me that in the northern countries Good Friday is called Long Friday. And she wonders what’s good about it (she grew up with Christianity but, like many or most Europeans of our generation, is not a believer). She remembers it as being only long and sad. Of course the whole complex theology of sin, sacrifice, and atonement is involved, but it occurred to me that there is also a more straightforward reason why we call this Friday good. The moment of Jesus’s death is the moment when Life enters Death and begins to destroy it—not in the sense that a powerful force overpowers and crushes a thing, but in the sense that where light is, darkness is not.

I’ve sometimes wondered what the progress of light filling a dark room would look like if we could slow it down. Light moves so fast that, on a human scale, we can’t detect any lapse of time between the kindling of a light in a dark place and the place being filled with light. But if we could slow it down, we would see first a tiny point of light, and see it gradually expanding until it took in the whole room. (Well, ok, this is not just practically but theoretically impossible for us, since we don’t see anything until the light reaches our eyes, but we can imagine it.)

Maybe something like that happened between Good Friday and Easter: at the moment the Savior entered death, an infinitely small point of light appeared in the blackness of death, and it grew and grew until it had completely replaced the darkness. Death died, as darkness dies in the advance of light. And the light has continued to expand into human history and indeed the whole cosmos ever since.

Oh foolish death, to have swallowed that which is your own negation.

(P.S. Curious about the term “Long Friday,” I looked around on the web and found this interesting comparison of the terms written, apparently, by a Swede living in Ireland. While you’re reading it you can listen to an excerpt from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion.

And a hat tip to Amy Welborn for the link to the Pope’s address.)


An Easter Flower

This is another camellia. I had a picture of one back in February; at the time the plant was in a pot and the flower was a fallen one, but my wife has since planted the little bush and it bloomed again. Strictly speaking, this is not an Easter flower, as the picture is a couple of weeks old and this blossom, too, has since fallen, but it’s an appropriate picture for the occasion.

I’ve always liked the combination of white and dark green.


At My Parish

My parish church, St. Lawrence in Fairhope, Alabama, is a fairly typical middle-class American one. (There’s a link to the parish web site at the end of this post, where you can see some pictures.) As a building it is not the sort of church I like most, but it’s not bad for a contemporary suburban church. It was built around the time we moved to Fairhope in 1992.

Behind the altar is a sort of curved partition. Behind the partition there’s a huge, wall-filling stained glass window depicting the Risen Christ. For a long time I didn’t like it very much, and I still don’t think it’s really good, but it’s grown on me. I’ve gotten used to it and developed an affection for it, and am able to think about what it signifies without criticizing it.

Originally there was no crucifix in the sanctuary. I think this is against the rules; anyway, there were complaints about the lack, and a crucifix was added, atop that curved partition. If you stand in the right place in the center aisle, the crucified figure is aligned with the resurrected one. Unfortunately I don’t have a good picture showing this, but you can get the general idea from this one, which I extracted from a screen capture of the video tour (see parish web site link below)—I suppose I should have edited out the word “stopped,” but it’s late now.

This is a good juxtaposition. Death comes first, then resurrection. We have to get past death, it’s between us and resurrection, but life is the last word.

I’m not going to post anything else between now and Sunday, but I’ll be checking in to see if there’s any conversation going on. If past holidays are an indicator, there probably won’t be nearly as much traffic here as usual. In general I’m going to curb my online activities somewhat for the next three days, as I’ve become too distracted and thinned out, if you know what I mean, and need a bit of recollection. I’d like to spend a week alone in the desert with nothing but a few books and maybe pen and paper. Maybe someday...

Here is the St. Lawrence web site; there’s a rather washed-out picture like the one above on the front page. Go to the Parish Information page for the video tour from which I got the image above.


I Blinked Once And It Was Gone

So I poured myself a drink and went down to the bay a little while ago to watch the sun set, something I haven’t done for several months—when the days are short it’s harder to find the time. I was immediately sorry that I hadn’t taken my camera, as there was a heron sitting on a piling, and the sunset, which started out tame, grew spectacular. But of course if I’d had the camera I would have been busy trying unsuccessfully to capture what I was seeing, and wouldn’t have really seen it.

At one point there was an opening in the clouds in the west, revealing a deep blue-green patch, fringed with glowing orange-pink cloud. A couple of jets (who knows how far away?) flew across this opening, leaving flaming orange-pink contrails. I looked away for a minute, watching birds, and when I looked back the airplanes were gone, the contrails breaking up and the glow fading. I thought about this song. Steve Forbert, “I Blinked Once,” 4:15.

And of course soon enough the whole sunset was over and it was getting dark. That was half an hour ago and already the memory is fragmented and imprecise. Is it possible that when we forget something it’s gone forever? Even if we remember it, that’s not the same as having it. This is a hard thought to bear.


It's a little late to be mentioning this...

...but if you happen to be within driving distance of Nassau Community College (New York), Thomas Storck will be speaking for distributism there tonight, on the stage with Michael Novak (for democratic capitalism) and Dr. Charles M.A. Clark (for democratic socialism). Should be interesting. I hope someone will put the audio, at least, online. Go here for details. I meant to mention it earlier.


Morning Fog

I’ve had this picture on my home page for a couple of weeks now and am about to replace it. I like it, and several people have told me they like it, but that page gets much less traffic than the blog, so I’m posting it here for everybody else. Also, when I remove something from the home page it’s no longer available, but posting it here will keep it online.

This was taken several weeks ago one dark foggy morning, standing in the road that runs in front of my house.


The New Flannery O'Connor Biography

I just started it yesterday (Flannery, by Brad Gooch). I’m coming to it pretty much without preconceptions—haven’t read any reviews or heard anyone talk about it beyond the fact that it exists. I’m a little concerned about how her faith is going to be treated, but so far (40 pages or so) it seems ok, at least. Has anybody else read it?

Seems she was a character in a Flannery O’Connor story from the beginning (note: her father’s name was Ed):

A cartoon that O’Connor drew when she was nine years old shows a child walking with her father and mother. In a balloon coming from the mother’s mouth are the words “Hold your head up, Mary Flannery, and you are just as bad, Ed.” To which the girl, dragging along, snidely replies, “I was readin where someone died of holding up their head.”