Paul Elie on Faith in Fiction

Saturday, December 22, 2012

In 2004, I led the PEN/Martha Albrand Award jury for First Nonfiction—a responsibility that filled my home with books both large and small, historical and personal.  I read about presidents and war.  I read about tattoos.  I read about doctors under siege.  I read about landscapes.  I shared my thoughts with four other jury members and ultimately traveled to Lincoln Center in New York City to introduce our winner, Paul Elie, whose The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage had won us all over.  At the ceremony, I put our affection for his work this way:

Ingeniously conceived and elegantly crafted, Paul Elie’s The Life You Save May Be Your Own shines an amber light on four twentieth-century Catholic storytellers who dared to believe in the power of literature and in the ultimate integrity of readers.  Choosing to focus on the lives and works of Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor, Walker Percy, and Dorothy Day, Elie deftly moves among his illustrious characters —reflecting on influences, unveiling connections, tying one to the other in often unexpected ways. Elie transitions between the personal and the political, the literary and the lived, with enviable ease.  Most of all, he does supreme justice to his subjects with vivid, lithe, and never once pretentious prose.
I've been watching Elie's career unfold ever since—grateful for his continuing presence as a mold breaker and deep thinker.  This weekend, Elie has a long essay in The New York Times Book Review titled "Has Fiction Lost Its Faith?" If you have time on this holiday weekend, take a careful look.

4 comments:

Amy said...

Someone just linked me to this last night. I read it but need more time to really digest it. Your additional recommendation makes me eager to do so!

Rachael Hanel said...

I just read it this morning. I thought it was insightful and spot-on. He raises some great questions.

Liviania said...

Great link. One of the things I've found turns people off in reviews is mentioning that a book has an exploration of faith and/or religion, which is sad. It's such a big part of many people's lives, why would we cut it out of our fiction?

Lilian Nattel said...

Thank you for the link. I'm off to have a look now.

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