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Peacocks, Vanity, and the Possibility of Redemption

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“Vain as a peacock,” we used to say, back when vanity was a vice rare enough to be remarked on. I used to have an aunt who, like Flannery O’Connor (probably their only similarity), loved all sorts of barnyard fowl. She lived on the family farm, breeding, raising, and selling all sorts of chickens, ducks, geese, and their eggs, as well as more exotic kinds of birds, such as rheas (a cousin of the better-known ostrich, native to South America). Each of these bird species has its own native personality; you couldn't act around a goose the same way you could with a duck, for instance. Geese are bossy and territorial and, if you stray into a part of the farmyard where the goose doesn't think you should go, it will bite you on the backside (yes, it will “goose” you).

The rheas, tall stately birds with a kind of innate dignitas, were my aunt's favorite -- they had a special pen with a high chain-link fence, intended to keep them safe from predators. Rheas mate for life, which tur…

The Secret to Reading Flannery O'Connor

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Veiled MysteryAbout forty years ago, I read the work of Flannery O’Connor for the first time, at the suggestion of my college English professor, John Glass. I was immediately hooked, although at the time I had no idea what her stories were about. Mr. Glass, who liked to set us reading challenges, had assigned one of O’Connor’s short stories, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” for class. I read it and was suitably shocked by it but also intrigued. For reasons I won’t go into here, I felt I knew the family in the story — in fact, it could have been my own family, except that none of us had ever been gunned down by escaped felons while on a family road trip. (Not yet, anyway.) If I could make sense of that senseless slaughter, maybe I could make sense of my own life.
After that, I read her two novels, Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away (I even wrote a paper about that one, but I have no idea what I could have said that would have made sense), as well as some more of her stories, thinkin…

Authors I Call Friends: Andrew Seddon

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I've been away from blogging for a while, and this blog has moved to an independent WordPress site and back to Google's Blogger platform since I last wrote here regularly. Despite my neglect of A Catholic Reader over the past few years, I owe a lot to this blog because it helped launch me into all the other activities that have been keeping me busy: writing, editing, and translating, as well as publishing and book design.

As a way of easing back into talking about things I read, I thought I would introduce you to some of the authors I've gotten to know as friends and acquaintances (through reading, editing, or translating their stuff) through this blog. These are writers whose work I can heartily recommend to other readers.

First, I must mention Andrew Seddon, with whom I first got acquainted after he found me (I think) through the (now defunct) Catholic Blogging Network and offered to send me his first Saints Alive! collection to review. So I did, and it was the beginni…

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