Catholic Distance University

A Novel Vocation: A Conversation with Ron Hansen

The post-war boom in fiction was a moment of hope for the state of Catholic culture. Catholic writers Flannery O’Connor and Muriel Spark were being sent up the same flag poles that flew pennants for Saul Bellow and John Updike. Catholics even managed to capture back-to-back wins of the coveted National Book Award with Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer (1962) and J.F. Powers’ Morte D’Urban (1963).

But then it seemed that once Catholic fiction had its moment, the light began to fade and with it any hope of a true Catholic renaissance in literature. While for consolation O’Connor, Percy, Powers et al, have been enshrined in the pantheon of contemporary fiction, it seemed everyone was ready to don black arm bands, write up the obits and send flowers.

Fortunately for Catholics and non-Catholics alike, Nebraska-born and Catholic-raised novelist Ron Hansen dismissed reports on the death of Catholic fiction as greatly exaggerated. [Read more...]

The Mother’s Vocation and the Writer’s Life: A Conversation Between Katy Carl and Meredith Mccann

What happens when a writer has a child? How many young, childless women publish more sparingly than men, and is this “leaving before you leave” (á la Sheryl Sandberg), or evidence of crushed hopes, or a kind of imaginative thrift that will yet bear fruit? Or a combination of these? It can be difficult to talk about specifically feminine gifts and trials without being seduced by generalities, but we, the current and former editors in chief of Dappled Things, have decided to take our private discussions to a public forum. [Read more...]

A Hero for the People: An Interview with Arthur Powers

Nicholas Ripatrazone

I was happy to discover the fiction of Arthur Powers, an author familiar to many Dappled Things readers, who has published two noteworthy books this year. Powers’s two fiction releases include a novella, The Book of Jotham (Tuscany Press), and a short story collection, A Hero for the People (Press 53). [Read more...]

Mail-order Zombies: An Interview With Ryan Charles Trusell

Ryan Charles Trusell has launched an experiment in “old media”: the publication of a true epistolary novel (a novel in letters—real letters). As he describes it,

Ora et Labora et Zombies is composed of seventy-two handwritten Letters of between 4-6 pages, reproduced on specially watermarked stationery with a hand-printed serigraph cover sheet. Each Letter will be published individually, as a weekly serial, and distributed to readers through the mail. This idiosyncratic method of publication aims to celebrate and prolong the disappearing experience of receiving letters in the mailbox, and also to create in the reader a sense of anticipation, of waiting as the dramatis personae must wait to discover what is happening.” [Read more...]

A Fire-Stained and Blackened Cathedral: An Interview with Joshua Hren

Meredith Wise: What made you want to translate La Femme Pauvre? You mentioned that Bloy had some connection with Jacques and Raissa Maritain, who inspired your novel In the Wine Press (parts of which have been published, of course, in Dappled Things).

Joshua Hren: I first came across La Femme Pauvre—the name of the novel, not an actual copy of it—ten years ago, in 2002. [Read more...]

A Bird’s Nest of Being

Joshua Hren

Diana began her shift each morning at Queequeg’s Seafood Tavern and Brewery with a propitiatory prayer, which by a quirk of providence or some incredible stroke of luck you might be able to hear, even though it was almost always offered (and hopefully received) in silence. In fact, she woke up each day with the same prayer, or at least a similar one, such as “Please, God, help me get through the day,” or something simpler, even unaddressed, like “Help!” Besides this, she usually began each individual task with something along the same lines, such as “God help me,” sometimes whispered repeatedly while shaking her head from side to side as she pulled lemons out of a cardboard box in five-pronged clutches, two or three at a time. Once she managed four. [Read more...]

Our Essential Disfigurement and the Reparation of Fiction

Joshua Hren: First of all, short of a plenary indulgence, I can think of few gifts better than good fiction. On behalf of Dappled Things, many thanks to Tuscany Press for the gift of the finely crafted short-story “Eyes that Pour Forth,” which was recently published, along with the other prize-winning entries, in the short story collection you edited.

Joseph O’Brien: On behalf of our publisher Peter Mongeau, I thank you very much for the kind words. However, your readers should know that long before Tuscany Press came on the scene, Dappled Things has been almost single-handedly holding up the standard for budding Catholic writers. The fact that there is an interest these days among young Catholics to write fiction is due at least in part—and maybe even large part—to the presence of Dappled Things. [Read more...]

“Little Volcanoes”: An Interview with Amy Welborn

I don’t know how it comes up or how we talk about it in a way that we both understand, but for some reason, I get it in my head that I want her to know something about me. I need to communicate this thing that explains me, that explains us, that explains our presence, how we ended up here out of all the places in the world that we could be tonight. I say what I think might be correct: Mi sposo, morto. She gasps, reaches a hand to touch mine, and I work out a way to tell her more about it.
I point to my heart.

[Read more...]

“This Morally Inverted Universe:” An Interview with Max McLean

Janice Walker

Coming to the end of the curtain call, award-winning actor Max McLean broke the fourth wall to inform the audience of the Lansburgh Theater in Washinton, D.C. (which included your humble interviewer) that he “worked for [Screwtape's] ‘Enemy.’” Paradoxically, precisely by positioning himself firmly within the service of Christian theatrical arts, McLean has liberated himself and his production company, The Fellowship for the Performing Arts from the restrictions and stigmas of that genre. [Read more...]

“The Soul of Sci-Fi”: An Interview with John C. Wright

Janice Walker & Eleanor Bourg Donlon

The most widely attributed quote to John C. Wright (at least, in the realm of blogs and livejournals, to which he is a regular contributor) is, “If Vulcans had a church, they’d be Catholics.” This remark brilliantly encapsulates the nature of Wright the writer: a man deeply entrenched in the landscape of popular science fiction—a genre he once described as “one chamber in the sprawling, Gormenghastian pile” of fantasy and horror (and which this interviewer could not resist quoting as any sentence that uses the word “Gormenghastian” ought to be shouted from rooftops)—and gravely committed to the presupposition that “objective moral order” is the bedrock of all good literature. [Read more...]

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