Friday, July 10, 2015

Weekend Reads and Thoughts: July 10

Confessions of a Catholic Novelist
by William Giraldi, The New Republic

Giraldi, whose fiction I admire and whom I've written about before, tries to flee the attempts by some critics, such as D.G. Myers at Books and Culture, to label him a Catholic writer. Giraldi's defense seems hopelessly mired in the understanding of Catholic art as pious kitsch, which is mind-boggling to me, because his fiction clearly (to me, at least) carries on in the vein of the greatest Catholic writers--Hopkins, O'Connor, Dante, etc. An interesting read nonetheless. I'm working on a longer response to his essay.

An Interview with Christian Wiman: Being Prepared for Joy
by Anthony Domestico, Commonweal

A great interview from last year with the poet Wiman, whose My Bright Abyss I recently wrote about. Wiman speaks directly about his book, and shares his thoughts on Catholic versus Protestant art, and many others. Highly recommended.

Why College Kids are Avoiding the Study of Literature
by Gary Saul Morson, Commentary

A long-ish read about the failure of literature classes, at the secondary and collegiate levels. I've read many articles that rightly critique current pedagogy in literature classrooms; this one does the best job of any I've read of identifying the solution. Morson's point is that a work of literature is not primarily an informational text (as the Common Core would have it) nor is it primarily a gateway into ideology (as most college classes present it) but instead a world to be entered. The most important thing about teaching literature is the students' experience of reading itself, which he associates with cultivating a sense of empathy in the reader. The encounter between reader and text is the point of a literature class, and Morson realizes the importance of devoting class time to the often laborious but irreplaceable process of reading long passages, to show students how to "inhabit the author's world." I couldn't agree more.

How Corporate America Propelled Same-Sex Marriage
by Emily Cadei, Newsweek

A more benign take on corporate involvement in social issues than that of Patrick Deneen in the last issue of First Things. Cadei buys the narrative that the CEOs are selling--that companies really do care about issues such as same-sex marriage--rather than see the trend as simply the latest frontier in marketing, as a way for corporations to maintain the bottom line. That is not to say that Cadei's piece is a shill for big business, but it's not far off, humming with a kind of positive energy. I can't imagine that it would have the same tone, say, if corporate involvement had taken a rightward turn instead of leftward--that is, if the situation was different and polling data suggested that that course of action would be more profitable. Then, all of this would surely be a guise for making money, not genuine concern for social issues.

Where have all the good Marxists gone? Corporations are only ever concerned with making money, and whenever they weigh in on political or social matters, it's only to maximize profits, whatever they tell us. If people who opposed same-sex marriage suddenly stopped shopping at Walmart (I'd imagine this would be more than half of Walmart's customers), do you really think Walmart would continue its public support of it? Of course not. Wherever one stands on the ideological spectrum, whether one supports or opposes same-sex marriage, the fact that corporate culture has become so embedded in political and social issues should be deeply concerning. For sure, Huxley and Orwell are spinning in their graves.

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