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Christian Fiction

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I could use a little help here because I'm procrastinating to the point of self-irritation.

A friend and colleague has asked me to write an entry for "Christian Fiction" for a forthcoming reference book on literary genres.

I'm tempted to define the genre in terms of niche marketing since that seems to me to be the demarcating line between what is commonly thought of as Christian Fiction--can you buy it at a store like Zondervon? But there is a part of me that wants to justify trying to make an argument that Christian Fiction is more than just that and the niche-ing of the genre is a current trend rather than a definition of its (still formative? historical but forgotten?) identity.

Can anyone make an argument (or a nod towards one) that "Christian Fiction" is a useful designation for an existing literary genre, however small? Or, aside from Christian publishing , are there merely Christians who write in and allow their faith to inform other genres? (Example: John Grisham is a Christian who doesn't hide that fact and deals with Christianity in his work, but I don't think your average person on the street thinks of The Last Juror or The Testament as "Christian Fiction." Am I wrong?) Is "Christian" just a subset of other literary genres?

I did a lot of thinking about this topic when I was writing my disseration and I was struck by the fact that many niche-genres are defined mostly by the author but Christian fiction can come across to me as defined more by the intended audience. Still, I haven't really pursued that idea since then, so in revisiting the topic, I don't just want to immediately recycle old conclusions even if that's where I suspect I may end up anyway.

I don't really have to turn this in until February, so I have plenty of time to percolate ideas, but I thought this was an opportune time to ask the question given the turn taken by the Hollywood Jesus thread and Darrel's recent posts regarding Christians as a marketing force.

Any thoughts, however formative or tentative would be helpful. Right now I'm just in the thinking stage.

Peace.

Ken

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With friends and colleagues like that....

I don't go into Zondervan (or its equivalent) unless I absolutely have to, so do they carry stuff other than "Left Behind" etc.? Do Gilead and The Red Tent count? Chalice Press (Disciple publishing house) has a series of books about popular books. The books that are subject of the series are not necessarily Christian fiction, but fiction that Christians might be able to identify with.

What do you do with O'Conner or Buechner? Are they part of that Christian niche, or do you assume anything that has quality doesn't fit the niche?

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Ken, I hadn't seen this post before, but you raise an excellent question.

As our acquaintance EJ Park recently put it, inanimate objects can't be Christian. So I bristle any time people refer to "Christian bookstores" or "Christian films" or "Christian businesses." You and Darrel have already pointed out the contradictions, but I'll suggest that the only definition here is market niche. A bookstore isn't a Christian bookstore because of what it sells, it's a Christian bookstore because of who it sells to: a particular publiching market and purchasing group. Personally, I think it's a little sad that a religious identitiy can be so easily transformed into a consumer label.

And of course this overlooks the full range of nuance in any work of literature or film. Are certain words Christian? Are certain phrases or ideas Christian? Is it a question of quantity or quality? Personally, I find many things sold in Christian bookstores anti-Christian and many so-called secular books and authors (and critics) profoundly--even if implicitly--Christian.

So yeah, write about O'Connor and Greene and everyone else who's worth writing about and let "Christian publishers" do what they will.

Edited by Doug C

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Doug:

Thanks. That's exactly the sort of paradigm framing definition that could allow me to incorporate the questions into a reference entry without turning it into a piece of criticism. Clear, succinct, and comprehensible to the layman. Are you referring to E.J. Narnia piece in CT or just to a post/e-mail?

Darrel:

With friends and colleagues like that....

Actually he's a good guy who I like quite a bit, and I was pleased and flattered he thought of me. Maybe I'm not understanding your inference; are you saying that you think I shouldn't do it?

Peace.

Ken

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I think it was an offhand comment EJ made in reference to his CT Narnia article, but yeah, that article begins to get at some of the sticky issues involved when faith and commerce mix.

Edited by Doug C

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I did a lot of thinking about this topic when I was writing my disseration and I was struck by the fact that many niche-genres are defined mostly by the author but Christian fiction can come across to me as defined more by the intended audience.

Ken,

I think this is fairly accurate, but Christian fiction seemed to get its start with Pilgrim's Progress (which may have been the first novel deliberately written for children, and so may be responsible for two genres). There were other fictional works with Christian themes, but it seems to me that PP started something.

I don't care for the term "Christian fiction" either, but it really is a fairly useful term. Think of The Color of Paradise and you might be thinking of a film by a Muslim, but it's not a "Muslim film," per se; in the same way, there are many Jewish writers whose works are not "Jewish novels." However, there are books and films that are decidedly "Muslim", "Jewish", "Hindu", "Christian" or whatever -- they are written to help educate, inform or influence. There is definitely a discinction between Napolean Dynamite (not a Mormon film) and The Other Side of Heaven or God's Army (both "Mormon" films, IMHO). The adjective is not preferred, but seems to be useful.

Christian bookstores exist not to serve the public generally, but to serve the Christian consumer, and Christian novelists write because the Christian publishers are busy developing product to supply to their bookstore customers. It's similar to the distinction that might be made between a grocery store that offers some kosher products, and a "kosher deli" -- the deli offering an exclusive selection to a defined market. The Christian bookstore is not interested in selling Grisham or Beethoven for the same reason that the deli is unlikely to add ham sandiches to the menu: they are specialists, not generalists. (And it does seem that a lack of specialists creates a sort of vacuum when a market niche grows to a certain size.)

(BTW, Zondervan is a publisher, not a store; it is now part of the Harper San Fransisco group.)

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rrel:

With friends and colleagues like that....

Actually he's a good guy who I like quite a bit, and I was pleased and flattered he thought of me. Maybe I'm not understanding your inference; are you saying that you think I shouldn't do it?

Just that he left you with such an ambiguous topic. Of course, ambiguity means you can do what you want, so it's really not so bad.

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(BTW, Zondervan is a publisher, not a store; it is now part of the Harper San Fransisco group.)

IIRC, there used to be some Zondervan "Christian" bookstores here in the Metroplex, but they all were bought out by Family Christian(sic) Store.

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"Christian Fiction" is similar to "Christian Music" and "Christian Movies" as a niche. It is aimed at a particular subculture, American conservative Evangelical Christianity and marketed to be sold in "Christian bookstores".

There is a specific group of authors who write for Christian publishing houses. These and only these are considered to be part of the "Christian Authors" clique. Even books outside of this specific niche with spiritual themes are not considered to be part of the clique. For example, Terri Blackstock, Francine Rivers, and Ted Dekker are in the clique. Flannery O'Connor, Marilynne Robinson, and John Grisham are not. (Grisham had to go get famous before anyone found out he was a Christian so the niche couldn't claim him as one of their own, that rascal.) ;) Of course, it's absurd that Gilead probably isn't known by many Christian fiction readers because they can't find it in a Christian bookstore. But fortunately, some Christians shop at Borders and Barnes and Nobles, so they can find these kind of books.

Traditionally, Christian fiction was aimed at suburban Evangelical married women, and primary consisted of romances between spunky but tender widows on the Kansas prairie, and the strong silent hunk of a man who learns to get in touch with his feelings and fall in love with her. Fiction was considered a general waste of time as compared to the "higher" arts of Bible study and reading how to improve one's prayer life. However, when Frank Peretti wrote This Present Darkness (which only started selling after Amy Grant started promoting it, by the way), then it became acceptable for Christians, both men and women, to read fiction. When the Left Behind thing hit in the mid 90s, Christian fiction became a commercially viable genre. Still it was primary sold in Christian bookstores, and operated under a strict set of cultural rules:

- No profanity of any kind (This is the biggie!)

- Sinners will undergo some kind of religious conversion by the end of the story.

- No sex between unmarried people. If it is absolutely necessary to admit that committed Christians husbands and wives may have sex to procreate children, then be very discreet and for gosh sakes don't describe it in any detail.

- No scenes involving drinking or going into bars or pubs.

- If writing a political or a legal thriller, then the good guys are conservative family-values Republicans and the villians are liberal agnostic Democrats.

However, there are rumblings of change. The quality of fiction within the Christian fiction genre has improved over the last few years. There is a group of Christian authors writing thrillers who that are pushing the envelope a little bit, where evil is realistically portrayed so that the light at the end of the darkness can be shown, and stories where people don't necessary get "saved". But most of the cultural taboos are firmly in place. If Tony Soprano himself were to make it into a Christian thriller, he wouldn't say anything harsher than "darn" or "heck".

An interesting blog site with a discussion board can be found here.. The discussion board contains a group of authors and aspiring authors who are Christians and are interested in writing fiction from a Christian perspective but isn't bound to the tradtional "Christian fiction" niche, as well as Christians exploring breaking into the mainstream publishing world. The blogsite is run by an editor at a Christian publishing house who is publishing some of the highest quality work in the subculture. But like in other endeavors involving Christians and the arts, the walls between the subculture and the outside world will come down only when Christians want to take them down.

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Posted (edited) · Report post

I wonder if Jeffrey will pipe up here. And I wonder if he would classify his upcoming children's book as "Christian fiction". It IS being published by a "Christian publisher", for whatever that's worth. But I suspect he wouldn't want to be limited to that market.

(Then again, the Left Behind books sold well outside the evangelical marketplaces, too; as Terry Mattingly reported this week, "8.6 percent of the readers were Catholics and the remaining 22.8 percent said they practiced Islam, Judaism, Buddhism or another world religion.")

Doug C wrote:

: As our acquaintance EJ Park recently put it, inanimate objects can't be Christian.

Um, well, sure they can. But it all depends on what you mean by "Christian".

: . . . I'll suggest that the only definition here is market niche.

Yeah, this is the answer I've always given when the subject of "Christian music" comes up.

nardis wrote:

: If I may "ahem" here . . .

You may, but "ahems" usually come with hypertexted links. :)

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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Can anyone make an argument (or a nod towards one) that "Christian Fiction" is a useful designation for an existing literary genre, however small?

I can tell you that it's a description used by both publishing houses and literary agents when they print their submission guidelines.

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BDR wrote:

I can tell you that it's a description used by both publishing houses and literary agents when they print their submission guidelines.

Got any specifics I can take a look at? The submission guidelines would be particularly helpful in ensuring whatever definition of the (sub)genre I include is based on something other than anecdotal experience and a skimming a few titles. I'll be happy to pay postage or give you a fax number where you can send them.

Thanks.

Ken

Hi Ken, sorry for the delayed reply -- the submissions guidelines I have are from a book called the Writer's Market 2005 -- it gets published every year and is a compliation of magazines, publishers, writer's agents and other useful information for people trying to get published. You ought to be able to find it at a Barnes & Nobles or B. Daltons or something like that.

You can also try their website: http://www.writersmarket.com

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You might want to get a hold of Leland Ryken's collection of essays in The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Part 6: "State of the Art: Success and Failure in Current Christian Fiction and Poetry" has a couple essays that discuss exactly what you are talking about--Richard Terrell's "Christian Piety Is Not Enough" and Robert Engler's "Confessions of a Poetry Editor" both have valuable insights and criticisms of Christian fiction.

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Did you know that Frank Peretti is "the father of Christian fiction"?

If so, then you'll be excited to know he has "another classic."

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Oh what a comically fun old thread to read.

Edited by Persiflage

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Oh what a comically fun old thread to read.

Since you bumped this old thread, I thought I'd go ahead and post a link to the anthology I mentioned in the first post. The eventual essay that I wrote appear in

Books and Beyond: The Greenwood Encyclopedia of New American Reading.

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Did you know that Frank Peretti is "the father of Christian fiction"?

Really? What became of Dante? Bunyan?

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Did you know that Frank Peretti is "the father of Christian fiction"?

Really? What became of Dante? Bunyan?

Pfft. Dante doesn't count, obviously. And Bunyan's just weird. :P

Actually, it reminds me of the time that a woman told me that The Shack was the greatest Christian book ever written. I was a little stunned.

To be fair, though, wasn't Peretti the father of blockbuster cross-over Christian bestsellers? I seem to remember reading that somewhere, but then again he first got popular a little before my time.

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To be fair, though, wasn't Peretti the father of blockbuster cross-over Christian bestsellers?

Well, I do remember This Present Darkness going boom during my freshman year in college. I did read it, along with the sequel, Piercing the Darkness, but I can't really say either one changed my life. Enough craft there to keep you turning pages, but not a lot of substance. It's tempting to call Frank the Dan Brown of evangelical literature, but on second thought it might be more appropriate to reserve that honor for LaHaye/Jenkins.

Full disclosure: Frank's sister is a family friend and former colleague of my wife's. We once had Thanksgiving dinner with most of the extended Peretti family, minus Frank.

Whether he is the "father of blockbuster cross-over Christian bestsellers" depends on whether the Chronicles of Narnia, Hobbit/LOTR, Father Brown et al. qualify as either "Christian fiction" or "bestsellers" ... I wouldn't know for sure.

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To be fair, though, wasn't Peretti the father of blockbuster cross-over Christian bestsellers?

Well, I do remember This Present Darkness going boom during my freshman year in college. I did read it, along with the sequel, Piercing the Darkness, but I can't really say either one changed my life. Enough craft there to keep you turning pages, but not a lot of substance. It's tempting to call Frank the Dan Brown of evangelical literature, but on second thought it might be more appropriate to reserve that honor for LaHaye/Jenkins.

That seems really unfair to Dan Brown.... Well, I've not read Brown, so perhaps not.

I absolutely loved the Darkness books (or, rather, Peretti's audiobook recording of them) when I was nine, but when the time came to actually read them, I was less than impressed.

As potboilers go, however, The Visitation wasn't bad (at least, as I recall--it's been years). Can't say I've kept up with Peretti since then, though.

Full disclosure: Frank's sister is a family friend and former colleague of my wife's. We once had Thanksgiving dinner with most of the extended Peretti family, minus Frank.

"Dan Brown of evangelical literature" or not, that's pretty cool.

Whether he is the "father of blockbuster cross-over Christian bestsellers" depends on whether the Chronicles of Narnia, Hobbit/LOTR, Father Brown et al. qualify as either "Christian fiction" or "bestsellers" ... I wouldn't know for sure.

None of those were published as self-proclaimed [i.e. ghettoized] "Christian fiction," though, right? So they might be "Christian fiction bestsellers," but they wouldn't be "cross-over," which I think is the key term here.

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Peretti was probably the first evangelical author to have a big, big hit within the Christian ghetto; it is due to the runaway success of This Present Darkness (1986) that we had a surge of evangelical novels by Bob Larson, Pat Robertson, Larry Burkett and other non-novelists in the early '90s, leading up to Tim LaHaye and (former ghostwriter) Jerry B. Jenkins' Left Behind series (which began in 1995).

Other novelists had laid the groundwork, though. In Steve Lawhead's non-fiction book Turn Back the Night (1985), or perhaps one of his other non-fiction books on pop culture around that time, he cited his own novel Dream Thief (1983) as an example of how the Christian ghetto was creating its own alternatives to Stephen King.

Side note: Harper's Magazine ran an article on "Christian fiction" at some point between 1995 and 1997 (it was during my two years at The Ubyssey, I'm pretty sure of that), and I wrote a letter to the editor in response to that article which, yes, the magazine printed. Woo-hoo!

... Oh, look, the letter's online. But you have to be a subscriber to read it.

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From some of your Facebook posts, I know a few of you have noticed it.  But there has been a ongoing conversation on Christianity & Literature (between writers we care about) that has been running for a while now, and since it directly concerns what we are interested in here at Arts & Faith, it seems like we should use a thread to systematically track it.

 

For those of you who haven't noticed the conversation, I strongly recommend reading each essay on the subject in full.  Each essay, from different points of view, is worth reading in it's entirety.

 

So, here's what I've tracked so far (although I also seem to remember a couple other pieces that I've forgotten):

 

1 - Robert Fay - "Where Have All the Catholic Writers Gone? in The Millions, November 28, 2011:

... Yet despite such a rich Catholic literary heritage with many contemporary admirers — one can’t help thinking of how passionately the MFA/Creative Writing/Workshop establishment venerates the stories of Flannery O’Connor — there has not been a new generation of Catholic writers to take up Percy’s vision, one where their inherent “otherness” is not edged to the margins, but is at the very heart of their craft. The obvious reason for this literary vacuum is that the Christian faith, and the Catholic Church in particular, have been in full-cultural retreat since the 1960s. In the wake of the sexual revolution and the women’s movement, many Catholics left the Church over its opposition to abortion, artificial contraception, and the ordination of women, to name just a few hot-button topics. And then, beginning in the late 1990s, a wave of priest sex-abuse crimes came to light that have scandalized untold numbers of Catholics. Yet there was another revolution in the 1960s — an internal Catholic one — that was in many ways as profound as the one taking place in the streets of Paris, New York, and London. It was a liturgical revolution, and it impacted each and every Catholic at that most fundamental unit of faith — Sunday morning Mass ...

 

2 - Paul Elie - "Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?" in The New York Times, December 19, 2012:

... I am the author of a book about four 20th-century American Catholic writers, and I am often asked who their successors are. Usually I demur. I observe that we look in the wrong places. I point out that Graham Greene and J. R. R. Tolkien were considered baffling in their time. I cite Matthew Arnold to the effect that ours is a critical age, not a creative one. I reflect that literature is created by individuals, not compelled by social forces ... This refusal to grant belief any explanatory power shows purity and toughness on the writer’s part, but it also calls to mind what my Catholic ancestors called scrupulosity, an avoidance that comes at the cost of fullness of life. That — or it may show that the writer realizes just how hard it is to make belief believable. So it is in “The Gospel of Anarchy,” a 2011 novel by Justin Taylor. The book is set at a commune in Gainesville where some young Christian anarchists pursue religion and sex without borders, inspired by one Parker, a lost boy and prophet. Parker’s gospel suggests a slacker’s Kierkegaard, and his friends’ professions of faith are clunky, too: “Was it possible then that it was our yearning itself that delayed him? Was the force of our longing acting as a barrier instead of a draw?” The novel uses multiple points of view, but the one that matters most — that of its narrator and part-time protagonist, David — is the least credible. Where his conversion away from online sex is a perfect piece of realism, it is hard to imagine that he (or anybody) would go in for this Anarchristian stuff ...

 

3 - Gregory Wolfe - "Whispers of Faith in a Postmodern World" in The Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2013:

... Paul Elie suggested that "if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature." Really? From where I stand, things don't look that way. That is in large part because for the past 24 years I have edited Image, a journal that publishes literature and art concerned with the faith traditions of the West. Our instinct when launching the publication was that the narrative of decline was misguided, but we honestly didn't know if we could fill more than a few issues. Sometimes when you look, you find. Over the years Image has featured many believing writers, including Annie Dillard, Elie Wiesel, Christian Wiman, Marilynne Robinson and Mark Helprin. But these writers of religious faith and others are not hard to find elsewhere. Several prominent American authors— Franz Wright, Mary Karr and Robert Clark —are Catholic converts. Nathan Englander and Jonathan Safran Foer last year published "New American Haggadah," a contemporary take on the ritual book used by Jews on Passover ...

 

4 - Randy Boyagoda - "Faith in Fiction" in First Things, August/September 2013:

... As a teacher of literature, I encourage my students to read the best that’s been thought and said down through the ages, as brace and leaven for their neophiliac tendencies. I find myself engaged in exactly opposite terms with friends and colleagues. “But who?” they always ask (a humbling question, incidentally, for a working novelist). I always have ready some recommendations of current writers who take the life of faith seriously in their work—the novelist Marilynne Robinson, the poet Geoffrey Hill, assorted scholars and reviewers writing criticism—but I realize they have a point. While religion significantly matters in minor literary contexts today (as with the eccentric popularity of Amish romance novels) and in vulgar commercial contexts (as with Dan Brown’s books), serious literary fiction largely occupies its very own naked public square, shorn of any reference to religiously informed understandings of who and what and wherefrom we are, which represents a marked break from centuries of literary production informed by Christian beliefs, traditions, and culture ...

 

5 - Dana Gioia - "The Catholic Writer Today" in First Things, December 2013:

... Nowhere is Catholicism’s artistic decline more painfully evident than in its newer churches—the graceless architecture, the formulaic painting, the banal sculpture, the ill-conceived and poorly performed music, and the cliché-ridden and shallow homilies. Saddest of all, even the liturgy is as often pedestrian as seraphic. Vatican II’s legitimate impulse to make the Church and its liturgy more modern and accessible was implemented mostly by clergy with no training in the arts. These eager, well-intentioned reformers not only lacked artistic judgment; they also lacked a respectful understanding of art itself, sacred or secular. They saw words, music, images, and architecture as functional entities whose role was mostly intellectual and rational. The problem is that art is not primarily conceptual or rational. Art is holistic and incarnate—simultaneously addressing the intellect, emotions, imagination, physical senses, and memory without dividing them. Two songs may make identical statements in conceptual terms, but one of them pierces your soul with its beauty while the other bores you into catalepsy. In art, good intentions matter not at all. Both the impact and the meaning of art are embodied in the execution. Beauty is either incarnate, or it remains an intangible abstraction.

Whenever the Church has abandoned the notion of beauty, it has lost precisely the power that it hoped to cultivate—its ability to reach souls in the modern world. Is it any wonder that so many artists and intellectuals have fled the Church? Current Catholic worship often ignores the essential connection between truth and beauty, body and soul, at the center of the Catholic worldview. The Church requires that we be faithful, but must we also be deaf, dumb, and blind? I deserve to suffer for my sins, but must so much of that punishment take place in church?

 

... The Muse is no Calvinist. She does not believe that faith alone justifies an artist. The writer needs good works—good literary ones ... All writers must master the craft of literature, the possibilities of language, the examples of tradition, and then match that learning with the personal drive for perfection and innovation. There is a crippling naïveté among many religious writers (and even editors) that saintly intentions compensate for weak writing. Such misplaced faith (or charity) is folly ...
 

6 - Gregory Wolfe - "Cultural Anorexia: Doubting the Decline of Faith in Fiction" in First Things, December 23, 2013:

... So here’s my counter-thesis: The loss of a Catholic presence in mainstream literary culture is not because we are suffering from a dearth of gifted Catholic writers but because ideological blinders have prevented religious and secular people alike from perceiving and engaging the work that is out there.  In other words, we suffer from a type of spiritual and cultural anorexia: What would feed and nourish us is before us, but we will not eat ... If I miss anything from that mid-twentieth-century period, it is the presence of thinkers like Jacques Maritain, Etienne Gilson, Allen Tate, T.S. Eliot, and Thomas Merton, who were equally at home in the New York Times and Commonweal. Their rich, humanistic sensibilities are sorely missed. What happened in the intervening decades is a steady shrinking of cultural and aesthetic concerns to ideological politics, including church politics. What happened was the progressive dumbing down and crudeness of what has been called the culture wars. In the relentless pursuit of partisan politics, the endless fight against heresy or entrenched orthodoxy, Left or Right, the religious community’s arteries have hardened ...

 

7 - Paul Elie - "Restoring Faith in Fiction: Interview with Paul Elie" in Dappled Things, December 2013:

... Greg and I are friends and I had seen him last October in Seattle. I think that he’s publishing a lot of interesting work in Image, but a lot of the work he publishes lies outside what I was discussing. What I tried to say was not that there aren’t Catholic novelists or people who write out of the Catholic milieu or background, but there’s a pretty conspicuous absence of novels in which questions of belief as they’re felt in the present time are central to the novel. So it was an active definition. So that leaves out Alice McDermott, who was Greg’s counterexample in his Wall Street Journal article. I went to her book party a month ago—I love Alice. I’ve read all her works, we swap books as Christmas presents, but she writes about the 50s and 60s. It’s just a fact of her work. It changes a bit with her new book, so for Greg to say Alice McDermott? I say, she’s not what I’m talking about ...

 

I think that a lot of Greg’s approach involves what he calls the whispering generation—the present Catholic generation of writers. If Flannery O’Connor said that for the hard of hearing you shout and for the nearly blind you draw in large and startling figures, Greg took that and about ten years ago said, the present generation of Catholic writers are whispering. To a certain extent I think he’s right. I don’t like the formulation though because I think it’s not catchy. Why are they whispering? It’s not like we’re in England or Mexico where priests are being hunted. It plays into all sorts of neo-conservative ideas about what we’re not allowed to say in the culture, which I just don’t think is really true. At the same time, some of these people are whispering so softly that you have to ask whether we would recognize their work as having a religious dimension if it wasn’t part of their biography. There is a lot of work, for instance, that exists in Image that has to do very obliquely or peripherally with the question of disbelief. I think that’s perfectly OK. I’m a complete Vatican II-type of Catholic who says, “Let’s not have a narrow view of culture but the broadest most latitudinarian view of culture possible.” But that said, let’s acknowledge that many of those novels don’t deal with questions of religious belief. It comes in around the sides or it’s not really there at all. This is a non-judgmental active definition. There are a lot of great things out there by the community of Catholic writers in the largest sense, but the question of whether I should believe this religious stuff doesn’t really feature ...

 

8 - David Griffith - "The Problem with Waiting, Part 1" in Good Letters, January 6, 2013:

... I’m smiling as I write this because I am reminded of some in-person hand-wringing conversations I’ve had with Boyagoda. This was several years ago. We were neighbors in an old three-story apartment building in South Bend, Indiana. Randy was a post-doc at Notre Dame, my wife was working in their development (fundraising) office, and I was an adjunct professor. Elie had just published ‘The Life You Save May Be Your Own’ and Gioia was only a couple years into his stint as chair of the NEA. So while I don’t remember the exact details of those conversations, there was a general feeling of hope. It was a good sign that Elie’s book on Catholic writers Merton, O’Connor, and Percy was being published to wide acclaim, and Gioia was leading an important cultural institution ... But in the seven years since, while individual authors who happen to be Catholic (Gioia names Tobias Wolff and Mary Karr—a rare convert—among others) have continued to publish work and gain further acclaim, there has been no discernible build-up toward the kind of renaissance that Gioia ... pined for ...

 

9 - David Griffith - "The Problem with Waiting, Part 2" in Good Letters, January 7, 2013:

... What I’m suggesting is that we start embracing the many skilled literary writers who also identify as Catholic—practicing, lapsed, Latin Rite, schismatic, I don’t give a damn, here comes everybody, right?—and stop waiting around for those few innovators that Gioia speaks of. Waiting creates a situation that breeds philistinism; a sense of not good enough; a sense of who do they think they are?  In other words, waiting creates complainers and explainers, instead of do-ers. And that kind of attitude will just prolong this torpor.  I know because I’ve fallen into it, too ...

 

10 - Gregory Wolfe - "The Contemporary Novel of Belief, Part 1" in Good Letters, January 8, 2013:

... The short version of my responses to these gentlemen is that their allegation of the decline and fall of literature informed by faith is, in essence, a “narrative of decline” not borne out by the facts. But in this blog post and the one that follows, I want to flesh out my argument a bit more.  Judging from his interview at Dappled Things, Elie is quietly backing away from the untenable generalization that began his Times piece: “Christian belief figures into literary fiction in our place and time…as something between a dead language and a hangover. Forgive me if I exaggerate. But if any patch of our culture can be said to be post-Christian, it is literature.”  That’s not an exaggeration; it’s simply untrue. But it is a myth to which many people, undoubtedly including the editors of the Times, still tenaciously cling.  Elie’s more modest current argument is that what we lack today is fiction set in the present moment that is centrally about the struggle with belief ...

 

I'm sure I've missed a few and I don't mean to be one-sided.  Some of the best debates of all are those between like-minded friends and this is one of them.  These are also the types of conversations that I think we, here at A&F, ought to be noticing.  Personally, I'm still thinking through what some of the disagreements, but they are going to be worth discussing further.

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Thanks, JAAP.

 

There is a guy named Jake Hinkson who is writing from the perspective of the kind of person who would hang out at Arts and Faith.

 

Also, T. Jefferson Parker's books since 2010 have a Christian, supernatural element that is remarkable and the kind of thing that I don't usually like, but Parker is so talented that it works.

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Interesting.  I'll have to look Hinkson and Parker up.

 

In recent Christian fiction news, this now is a thing that exists.  And I don't think it's meant ironically like one of those Quirk classic books.

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So, Amish Vampires in Space, a "Christian fiction" book that I'm assuming is a parody, got used as an easy joke on Fallon.

 

And a Christian fiction blogger posted this on the popular Speculative Fiction site:

 

Now I could go off on how silly it is that yet another person has judged an excellent book by its cover (and title), but I won’t. Because let’s think about what just happened.

 

A Christian speculative fiction book was held up on a late night talk show that’s seen by millions of people. Millions of people were told, “Yes, this is a real book that you can find at Amazon or your local library.”

 

I’m not saying that all of those millions will go out and buy the book (it would be cool if they did), but how many of them will go to Amazon to see if Jimmy Fallon was telling them the truth about this book? How many of them will see that it has nothing but positive reviews? How many of them might be tempted to grab a copy for themselves?

 

How cool is that?

 

I don’t have anything profound to say, really. I just think we need to stop and take a moment to savor what has happened.

 

We have arrived.

 

 

Yes. Finally. A Christian who writes fiction has broken through and published something acknowledged by the people who matter.

 

We have arrived.

 

We.

 

Hallelujah.

Edited by Overstreet

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