Thursday, June 14, 2018


… Consideration: Sub specie aeternitatis: J.F. Powers, 1917-1999. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

For another thing Powers was a Roman Catholic whose principal topic — in both of his novels and a majority of his stories — was the Catholic priesthood. Educated by Anglicans, I arrived in adult life with a full set of anti-Catholic prejudices: dark-robed Jesuits plotting against the Crown, Bloody Mary and Foxe's Martyrs, the Borgia Popes and pig-headed James the Second, celibate priests denying birth control to the overpopulated Third World. Reading and traveling mellowed all this, of course, yet still I can tolerate Catholic writers at book length only if they leave their dogma at the door. Like many other Englishmen I regard Graham Greene as a brilliant narrative talent yoked to an irritating ideology and Brideshead Revisited as a regrettable lapse on the part of our finest mid-century novelist. (And I relish Orwell's slap at Waugh: "As good a writer as it is possible to be while holding untenable opinions".)
Proddy dog. (Just joking.)


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  2. We have traveled some distance from the days when a seminary might turn out Frs. Cooney, Mooney, Rooney, and Hackett in the same year, yet I don't know that Powers's clergy is as unrecognizable as (I imagine) Trollope's is. I have heard homilies from traveling priests that put me in mind of Fr. Urban "he-whoing", and I have met a few who put me in mind of Fr. Joe Hackett. Of course, how could Derbyshire know?

    Unfortunately, Evelyn Waugh did not keep a diary for the period that includes J.F. Powers's meetings with him, or if he did the diary is lost. I'd be interested to see what Waugh made of Powers. Powers's remarks on Waugh show no sign of encountering condescension.