Dana Gioia’s The Catholic Writer Today sets a mighty finger on the scales of literature: on the one side what matters and lasts, and on the other what’s shallow and doesn’t. This electrifying essay is a guide to the perplexed. Its arguments about Catholic literature could be applied to American writing in general. Without the complications of tradition and history—the history of meaning—what’s left?
Even the most agnostic soul will agree: what sane small press would go about the business of peddling books in this the century of "book obsolescence" without a patron saint throwing up prayers on its behalf? It is no coincidence that today, March 8, is the feast of St. John of God, the patron of booksellers, for today we officially release Wiseblood Book's edition of The Catholic Writer Today, by Dana Gioia, the inaugural work in our Wiseblood Essays in Contemporary Culture. Wiseblood Essays in Contemporary Culture serve to galvanize, interpret, champion and criticize the emerging renaissance in what Paul Elie calls “the literature of belief.” When it appeared in First Things, The Catholic Writer Today was instantly recognized as classic. Here for the first time is the full text of Dana Gioia’s influential essay, which confronts a most paradoxical fact: though Catholicism constitutes the largest religious and cultural group in the U.S., Catholic writers are currently almost invisible in American public culture. Gioia, internationally-acclaimed poet and critic, challenges Catholic writers to reoccupy and repair their great tradition. Purchase a copy HERE for only $5.
Originally a student of music, Gioia has not relegated his artistic activities to writing. He has authored two opera libretti. His poems have been set to music by Dave Brubeck, Ned Rorem, David Conte, Lori Laitman, Paquito D'Rivera and, most recently, Morten Lauridsen. It is fitting, then, that we take this opportunity to announce our emerging imprint Wiseblood Records. On August 28, Wiseblood Records will release Sam Rocha's "Augustinian Soul" album Late to Love. Learn more and support Rocha's fundraising campaign HERE.
Thank you for reading,
Joshua Hren, Ph.D. Editor-in-Chief