[percy-l] Percy-L Digest, Vol 141, Issue 1

Marcus Smith marcus at loyno.edu
Wed Aug 15 07:20:52 EDT 2018

The Mike Scott article says "The Moviegoer" was inspired by Dante's "Divine
Comedy”.  First time I ever heard this.

On Wed, Aug 15, 2018 at 4:33 AM <percy-l-request at lists.ibiblio.org> wrote:

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> Today's Topics:
>    1. Fwd: The Moviegoer. (honeyjbc1)
>    2. Of Interest: A portrait of Walker Percy by artist Maddie
>       Stratton of Where Y'Art, as commissioned by NOLA.com (Henry P. Mills)
>    3. Re: Of Interest: A portrait of Walker Percy by artist Maddie
>       Stratton of Where Y'Art, as commissioned by NOLA.com (honeyjbc1)
>    4. Flannery O?Connor found her art?and her God?in letters
>       (Jim Forest)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2018 11:15:44 -0400
> From: honeyjbc1 <honeyjbc at gmail.com>
> To: percy lists <percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Subject: [percy-l] Fwd: The Moviegoer.
> Message-ID:
>         <
> CAG4ie01M7e9Aa3RV5zgOimGD2QBVHppXrawa8ODfppA5WwwwFw at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> Attention all Percy lovers:
> Jessica Hooten Wilson will be interviewed on a podcast probably available
> on September 1st.
> Subject?
> The Moviegoer!
> John Miller does these wonderful interviews of scholars who are experts on
> their subjects and it is all part of a Great Books discussion series under
> the auspices of Hillsdale college.
> He is a wonderful questioner and usually the podcasts are exceptional.
> If anyone has trouble finding the podcast, let me know and I will make sure
> the List has the link.
> Can't wait.
> Janet Cantor
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> Message: 2
> Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2018 03:12:18 -0400
> From: "Henry P. Mills" <wppdirector at gmail.com>
> To: Percy-L <percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Subject: [percy-l] Of Interest: A portrait of Walker Percy by artist
>         Maddie Stratton of Where Y'Art, as commissioned by NOLA.com
> Message-ID: <19D9F200-765B-460C-9D6C-76AC1840057D at gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> Dear Percy-L:
> Enjoy this modern art painting of Percy and a rundown of numerous trivia
> related to him in the August 8 New Orleans The Times-Picayune.
> All best,
> Henry Mills
> Percy-L Administrator
> https://www.nola.com/300/2018/08/walker_percy_author_the_movieg.html <
> https://www.nola.com/300/2018/08/walker_percy_author_the_movieg.html>
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> Message: 3
> Date: Fri, 10 Aug 2018 10:22:15 -0400
> From: honeyjbc1 <honeyjbc at gmail.com>
> To: percy lists <percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Subject: Re: [percy-l] Of Interest: A portrait of Walker Percy by
>         artist Maddie Stratton of Where Y'Art, as commissioned by NOLA.com
> Message-ID:
>         <
> CAG4ie02g4DNE7kvrng+x6gNf4nJuX0TwC_bcvo47818G5Y0ZLQ at mail.gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="utf-8"
> Bill Binnings was a friend of Percy.
>  I wonder if he was a friend of his when Percy wrote The Moviegoer. Binx
> Boling?
> Janet Cantor
> On Fri, Aug 10, 2018 at 3:12 AM Henry P. Mills <wppdirector at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> > Dear Percy-L:
> >
> > Enjoy this modern art painting of Percy and a rundown of numerous trivia
> > related to him in the August 8 New Orleans The Times-Picayune.
> >
> > All best,
> > Henry Mills
> > Percy-L Administrator
> >
> > https://www.nola.com/300/2018/08/walker_percy_author_the_movieg.html
> > * Percy-L Discussion Archives:
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> >
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> >
> > * Contact the Moderator: percy-l-owner (at) lists.ibiblio.org
> >
> > * Visit The Walker Percy Project: http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
> >
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> Message: 4
> Date: Wed, 15 Aug 2018 11:33:03 +0200
> From: Jim Forest <jhforest at gmail.com>
> To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion"
>         <percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
> Subject: [percy-l] Flannery O?Connor found her art?and her God?in
>         letters
> Message-ID:
>         <CAKjbwZ7vP9eqBS=
> ftv0uNE87XhOgA53hAmRPDwccuLCARJLRvQ at mail.gmail.com>
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> www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2018/08/08/how-flannery-oconnor-found-her-art-and-her-god-lettersFlannery
> O?Connor
> <http://www.americamagazine.org/arts-culture/2018/08/08/how-flannery-oconnor-found-her-art-and-her-god-lettersFlanneryO?Connor>
> found her art?and her God?in letters
> Angela Alaimo O'Donnell
> <https://www.americamagazine.org/voices/angela-alaimo-odonnell>August 08,
> 2018
> Facebook <https://www.americamagazine.org/#facebook>
> Twitter <https://www.americamagazine.org/#twitter>
> Email <https://www.americamagazine.org/#email>
> ?Dear God, I cannot love Thee the way I want to. You are the slim crescent
> of a moon that I see and my self is the earth?s shadow that keeps me from
> seeing all the moon. The crescent is very beautiful and perhaps that is all
> one like I am should or could see; but what I am afraid of, dear God, is
> that my self shadow will grow so large that I block the whole moon, and
> that I will judge myself by the shadow that is nothing. I do not know you
> God because I am in the way. Please help me to push myself aside.?
> Flannery O?Connor wrote these words in January of 1946 when she was an MFA
> student at the Iowa Writers? Workshop. They capture the spiritual agon that
> she was engaged in as she struggled to discover the connection between her
> vocation as a writer and her vocation as a Catholic. Found among her papers
> by scholar William Sessions, a friend of hers, O?Connor?s *A Prayer
> Journal* was
> published to great acclaim in 2013 as it gave readers a glimpse into the
> baptism by fire she endured before emerging as America?s finest Catholic
> writer of the 20th century. Five years later, *Prayer Journal* continues to
> appeal to readers who value her work as it teaches us not only about the
> author, but also about ourselves as people in pursuit of twin vocations,
> the professional and the spiritual, and the challenges of reconciling the
> two.
> I recently revisited the *Prayer Journal* and found it to be as poignant
> and profound as when I first read it. What strikes me on this reading is
> the way writing the journal helped O?Connor to grow not only in her faith
> but also in her art, enabling a fledgling writer to experiment with and
> discover her literary vocation and voice. Most of the entries in the
> *Prayer
> Journal*, beginning in Jan. 1946 and concluding in Sept. 1947, take the
> form of letters. This is a genre O'Connor would master after she
> was diagnosed with lupus and exiled to her mother?s farm, Andalusia, in
> rural Georgia for the last 13 years of her life. During this period letters
> would become her primary means of communication with the outside
> world. These mature letters, wherein the full range of O?Connor?s literary
> gifts are on display, were eventually published as *The Habit of Being,
> *one
> of the finest collections of correspondence ever produced by a writer.
> Letter writing is a genre O'Connor would master after she was diagnosed
> with lupus and exiled to her mother?s farm.
> Tweet this
> O?Connor enjoyed letter-writing from an early age and took some pride in
> her skill. In an earlier journal O?Connor kept in college, humorously
> (mis)titled *Higher Mathematics* and recently found among her papers*, *she
> writes: ?My epistolary powers enthrall me. It is a pity I can?t receive my
> own letters. If they produce as much whole-hearted approval at their
> destination as they do at their source, they should indeed be able to keep
> my memory alive?and healthy? (Jan. 22, 1944). These early letters are, in
> some ways, apprentice pieces, preparation for the mature letters she would
> write and also served as practice for her fiction.
> The epistolary element of the *Prayer Journal*, in particular, provided her
> with the opportunity to write letters of a different nature from any she
> had written before. For these are letters to God and, as such, opened up an
> avenue for communication about matters of the soul, making them more frank
> and intimate than any she might have penned to ordinary people. The letters
> functioned in a variety of ways, but for present purposes I would like to
> focus on three.
> First, they gave her the chance to explore her most private thoughts and
> feelings without exposing herself or her work to judgment or
> censure?something she endured on a regular basis at the Iowa
> workshop. Unlike her fiction, which she hoped would be read by many people,
> her letters to God would, like prayer, remain sealed and secret. This gave
> O?Connor the freedom to address her greatest spiritual challenges and her
> besetting sins. Among these are the twin torments of fear and desire. As
> the opening excerpt suggests, one of her primary fears is that of the self
> and its relentless demands. She also fears the tyranny of her intellect,
> the loss of her faith and literary and spiritual mediocrity. But more than
> fear, these letters are the record of desire. O?Connor writes at one point
> that supplication is the only kind of prayer she is good at. She desires
> many things, but what she wants most of all is to be a good writer:
> Dear God, I am so discouraged about my work. . . . Please help me dear God
> to be a good writer and to get something else accepted. That is so far from
> what I deserve, of course, that I am naturally struck with the nerve of it.
> Her desire for literary accomplishment and fame exists in tension with her
> fear of her own pride and egotism. She knows she is smart and is very much
> taken with her own intellect. In another letter to God, after making a joke
> in the midst of her prayer (her sense of humor forever getting the best of
> her, both in her stories and her letters), she confesses, ?I do not mean to
> be clever . . . although I *do* mean to be clever on 2nd thought and
> *like* to
> be clever and *want *to be considered so.? Though she knows the danger of
> intellectual pride?like the young girl in her story ?The Temple of the Holy
> Ghost,? whose character is essentially a self-portrait?she cannot help but
> indulge in it and worries about its spiritual consequences. Thus, desire
> and fear grapple with one another as O?Connor?s psychomachia rages on the
> page, and even as the contest takes place, she becomes a more practiced
> writer.
> [image: 'Prayer Journal' by Flannery O'Connor]
> <
> https://www.americamagazine.org/sites/default/files/inline-images/prayerjournal.jpg
> >*Prayer
> Journal *by Flannery O'Connor
> A second purpose served by the letters is that they filled a void at a time
> in O?Connor?s life when she found herself a stranger in a strange land,
> living and writing among people who did not share her faith. In her second
> entry in the *Prayer Journal *she writes: ?I dread, oh Lord, losing my
> faith. My mind is not strong. It is a prey to all sorts of intellectual
> quackery.? When O?Connor went to Iowa, she was, for the first time in her
> life, surrounded almost entirely by people who did not share her beliefs.
> Far from her devout mother and her large extended Catholic family, O?Connor
> struggled with doubt and feared she was not strong enough in her faith to
> withstand the assault made on it by her writer colleagues and the secular
> university culture. Her letters to God provided her with a new avenue of
> prayer?something she desperately needed because, in her words, ?I have been
> saying [the traditional prayers I have said all my life] but not feeling
> them.? Engaging in this colloquy with God, however, she confided, ?I can
> feel the warmth of love heating me when I think & write this to You.? God
> became a familiar, friend and confidant, rather than a distant impersonal
> force approachable only through sanctioned means. O?Connor was charting
> unknown territory in inventing these prayers?something Catholics of her era
> were not encouraged to do?and for a while, at least, she reveled in the
> experience.
> A third opportunity the letters gave her was the rare chance to write from
> the first-person perspective, something she did not do in her fiction, and
> to discover how to create a persona.  While it is true that O?Connor
> attempted to be her unvarnished self in these letters, she was also
> creating a construct of herself. As Sessions notes in his introduction,
> these entries are spontaneous, but they are also revised, betraying the
> element of conscious craft in her writing. They are literary
> experiments?something O?Connor acknowledges at various times. About halfway
> through the journal, she writes: ?I have decided this is not much as a
> direct medium of prayer. Prayer is not even as premeditated as this?it is
> of the moment & this is too slow for the moment.? In the final entry, she
> admits that the experiment in communing with God has not worked: ?My
> thoughts are so far away from God. He might as well have not made me. And
> the feeling I egg up writing here lasts approximately a half hour and seems
> a sham.? The very quality of this form of prayer she enjoyed so much at
> first?the feeling it engendered?she now begins to distrust. In the battle
> between her intellect and her heart, her intellect gets the upper hand.
> While O?Connor may have viewed the prayer experiment as a failure, it was
> in reality a great success. In creating and inhabiting the varying personae
> she created?Angry Flannery, Frustrated Flannery, Remorseful Flannery,
> Grateful Flannery?she was engaging in what Henry James once called ?The
> Histrionic Imagination,? effectively training herself for her work as a
> fiction writer. She was practicing empathy?a virtue that did not come
> easily to O?Connor. The cultivation of the capacity to see and describe the
> world from these varying perspectives would enable her to create characters
> who were as different from herself as chickens from peacocks. It would
> enable her to *become* the racist Ruby Turpin she depicts in ?Revelation?;
> the foul-mouthed, tattoo-obsessed O.E. Parker in ?Parker?s Back?; a selfish
> old grandmother *and* a sensitive serial killer in ?A Good Man is Hard to
> Find.? These acts of imagination make O?Connor?s writing essentially
> dramatic?in both *A Prayer Journal *and her fiction. Thomas Merton, on
> hearing of her death, compared her to Sophocles?the great dramatist?rather
> than another fiction writer, as she depicted the elemental human struggle
> between characters who were grand and yet ordinary, true-to-life and
> somehow larger-than-life.
> Writing the *Prayer Journal* helped O?Connor to grow not only in her faith
> but also in her art.
> Tweet this
> The poet John Keats in one of his letters writes of the two great models of
> the artistic imagination in comparing what he calls ?The Chameleon Poet?
> (represented by Shakespeare) and ?The Egotistical Sublime? (the kind of
> poetry pioneered by Wordsworth). Keats aspired to the condition of the
> Chameleon Poet, envying Shakespeare?s ability to become his characters so
> thoroughly that he himself disappeared, but he had difficulty accomplishing
> it. Keats?s best poems are those that, like Wordsworth?s, focus on himself.
> But O?Connor *was* able to imaginatively occupy the condition of the other.
> And, paradoxically, she achieved this, in part, through her letters to God,
> which might seem to be exercises in the Egotistical Sublime but served,
> ultimately, to teach her how to transcend the self?or, alternately, to
> write about the self through her characters. ?Is there no escape from
> ourselves? Into something bigger?? she asks in one of the journal entries.
> The answer provided by her fiction is *yes.*
> The Church and the Fiction Writer: From March 30, 1957
> <https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/100/church-and-fiction-writer>
> Flannery O'Connor <https://www.americamagazine.org/voices/flannery-oconnor
> >
> [image: WORKSHOP DAYS. Robie Macauley, Arthur Koestler and Flannery
> O?Connor at Amana Colonies in Iowa, Oct 9, 1947.]
> Flannery O'Connor's struggle with faith illuminated in "A Prayer Journal"
> <https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/far-away-god>
> Susan Srigley <https://www.americamagazine.org/voices/susan-srigley>
> In one of her later letters to a friend, O?Connor speaks about the first
> story she wrote at Iowa, ?The Geranium,? a tale about an old southerner who
> goes to live in the alien environment of New York City and finds himself
> miserably homesick for the world he left behind. O?Connor admits that at
> the time she knew nothing about New York City, but she* did *know something
> about homesickness?and since she could not write about herself, the old man
> served as a kind of double for her. O?Connor wrote ?The Geranium? around
> the same time she was writing her letters to God, and the imaginative work
> she did in composing them helped her to accomplish this.
> After nearly two years, O?Connor abruptly stopped writing her journal. One
> reason for this is that it had served its purpose. It is instructive that
> the first words of the journal express her distrust of the self??I do not
> know you, God, because I am in the way??and the last words are these:
> ?There is nothing left to say of me.? All that needed to be said of young
> Flannery O?Connor had been said?and it was time to turn her full attention
> to her characters, to pour her *self* into them and make them come alive.
> The fact that O?Connor?s journal is a form of literary experimentation does
> not make it any less genuine. This is, after all, what writers do?find
> language that leads to a fuller apprehension of our inner and outer
> weather, as Robert Frost puts it, the ways in which the self is related to
> the physical world and spiritual cosmos we inhabit. She moves from the
> practice of praise, petition and thanksgiving to interrogation and
> self-castigation, employing a variety of voices and rhetorical modes to
> arrive at a better understanding of God, herself and her vocation as an
> artist.
> Her letters to God led to self-revelation. O?Connor discovered aspects of
> herself she would rather not. This discovery gave her a sense of relief and
> permission to move on with her true work, the business of writing fiction.
> Prayer is what Catholics do, and O?Connor prayed in every way she could
> find?in church, by her bedside, in her journal and in her stories. All of
> these avenues gave her access to the God she so fervently sought and,
> blessedly, found.
> *This article also appeared in print, under the headline "The Epistles of
> Flannery O'Connor ," in the August 20, 2018
> <https://www.americamagazine.org/magazine/2018/august-20-2018>* issue.
> --
> new book:
> *At Play in the Lions' Den: a biography and memoir of Daniel Berrigan*
> www.jimandnancyforest.com/2017/06/daniel-berrigan-bio/
> recipient of the International Thomas Merton Society?s ?Louie? award:
> *The Root of War is Fear: Thomas Merton's Advice to Peacemakers  *
> www.jimandnancyforest.com/2016/06/root-of-war-is-fear/
> *books in print: *www.jimandnancyforest.com/books/
> *web site: *www.jimandnancyforest.com
> *photos: *www.flickr.com/photos/jimforest/albums/
> *Amazon author page*: www.amazon.com/author/jimforest
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