Tag Archive: Catholicism

A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh (First published, 1934)

dustIn his chosen career as a novelist Evelyn Waugh has to write about human beings but you get the strong feeling from this cynical and morally vacuous novel that he didn’t like people much. He became a committed Catholic soon afterwards and presumably he took comfort from an organized religion that takes it for granted that we are all born sinners.

Its title comes from a line in T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land – “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” – an allusion to death given that someday all of us return to dust.

Like a vindictive deity or grim reaper, Waugh moves his sad characters around like someone idly engaged in a game of chess with himself. None of them are presented in a flattering light and their actions are mainly driven by apathy, ennui or spitefulness. They are well off, comfortably placed and bored out of their skins.

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THE POWER AND THE GLORY by Graham Greene (First published, 1940).

In 1926, aged 22, Graham Greene converted from Atheism to Catholicism.

In his autobiography, A Sort of Life, he explained that  “I became aware of the probable existence of something we call God, though I now dislike the word with all its anthropomorphic associations……….there was no joy at all, only a sombre apprehension”.  

This hardly sounds as if  ‘seeing the light’ was an altogether  pleasurable experience.

I always thought the big advantage of belief was that it is supposed to bring serenity rather than doubt. Continue reading

Had she not been struck down by lupus at the woefully early age of 39, Flannery O’Connor would be celebrating her 88th birthday today.

Wise Blood is one of my all time favourite novels and I read it thinking it was a religious satire so was shocked to find that O’Connor lived and died a devout Catholic.

She was, by all accounts, a real eccentric and her skewed view of religion and the world around her comes through in her writing.

Although I am not a Catholic, or a believer for that matter, I can still appreciate the wit and wisdom of her work. I think it’s her compassion for the freaks of the world, of which she was probably one, which I value most.

Her ear for dialogue and compassion for the frailty of human beings also makes her all too slim body of work unique.

On my Bucket List is a literary tour of the USA and one of the stop off points would be her childhood home in Savannah, Georgia. The video tour at least allows me to see what I’m missing from the comfort of my study:


(Translated from the French by Richard Howard) First published 1964

Subtitled ‘A history of insanity in the age of reason’, this densely argued and fascinating book shows how madness as a spectacle and disability has fascinated and haunted the history of mankind since the 15th century.

In this meticulously researched, controversial, study Foucault observes how “fear of madness grew at the same time as fear of unreason”. This was represented in Goya’s famous etching ‘The Sleep of reason produces monsters‘. Hieronymus Bosch was another artist who depicted madness to symbolise the fall of man.

This book begins at the end of the Middle Ages after a cure for leprosy had been found. Foucault shows how the role of the leper in society was replaced by the poor, the criminals and the insane.

Madness represents the direct opposite of strength, purpose and reason so is associated with weakness, dreams and illusions. Continue reading

THE ADDICTION directed by Abel Ferrara (USA, 1995)

I wanted to see this movie since, according to the Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw, it is the best film ever made.

I like Bradshaw’s reviews and more often than not agree with his opinions. I especially like the fact that he doesn’t take an elitist position; he is as likely praise the merits of Toy Story as the works of Tarkovsky.

The Addiction is a vampire movie like no other. Actually it is better to see it as an intense existential drama with theological overtones rather than as a straight horror film.

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