A Christian Looks at the Fiction of Ian McEwan

Two things need to be gotten out of the way before anyone attempts to address the fiction of English novelist Ian McEwan in a disapproving vein: First, he is one of the most acclaimed writers of our time; Second, unless your name happens to be, oh, John Updike, it is almost certain that McEwan is a better writer than you are.

In other words, one had best proceed with some humility, and I do. Rightly regarded as one of the finest stylists in the English language—McEwan’s prose is as perfectly calibrated as a Swiss watch, or a time bomb―his Booker Prize win in 1998, though for one of his fluffier little books, Amsterdam, was nonetheless not entirely misplaced. Sentence for sentence, it simply doesn’t get much better.

One of the most stunning chapters I have ever read in any novel occurs early in Atonement (2001) in a section describing a woman’s flowering migraine. It is the 1920’s, the scene is an English country house, and the woman is a prosperous upper-class wife and mother:

Not long after lunch, once she was assured that her sister’s children and Briony had eaten sensibly and would keep their promise to stay away from the pool for at least two hours, Emily Tallis had withdrawn from the white glare of the afternoon’s heat to a cool and darkened bedroom. She was not in pain, not yet, but she was retreating before its threat. There were illuminated points in her vision, little pinpricks, as though the worn fabric of the visible world was being held up against a far brighter light. She felt in the top right corner of her brain a heaviness, the inert body weight of some curled and sleeping animal; but when she touched her head and pressed, the presence disappeared from the coordinates of actual space. Now it was in the top right corner of her mind, and in her imagination she could stand on tiptoe and raise her right hand to it. It was important, however, not to provoke it; once this lazy creature moved from the peripheries to the center, then the knifing pains would obliterate all thought, and there would be no chance of dining with Leon and the family tonight.”

By the time I finished reading this chapter, I had to make for the bathroom and a bottle of aspirin.

Passages of horror encroaching on the quotidian are usually the best things about an Ian McEwan novel. The man is a poet of the Age of Anxiety; of violence erupting in the midst of the everyday; of all the things that can suddenly and dreadfully Go Wrong: the opening helium balloon scene in Enduring Love; the discovery of the drunken ex-husband in the wardrobe in The Innocent; the protagonist’s wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time-with-the-wrong-guy fender-bender in Saturday. In the hands of a master of the language, such scenes inspire more terror than any splatter movie. When I learned that one of his early novels opened with a child being abducted away from her father at a local grocery store, I knew at once that that was one work in McEwan’s oeuvre that this already anxious mother would never, ever pick up.

But great episodes do not a great novel make, and after reading, with a writer’s appreciation, six of his eight novels, I confess myself disappointed with the collected works of Ian McEwan. More, mine is that greatest of all disappointments in artistic terms, the disappointment of unfulfilled (great) expectations. This guy is so good, so fine a wordsmith―at crafting a sentence, a paragraph, a scene―that one ought to feel confident that he will be reckoned among the few authors of our time who will outlast our time.

And yet, set side-by-side with the Greats of previous eras―Austen, Dickens, Eliot, Melville, James, Dostoevsky, and so many others―McEwan, in my view, comes up perplexingly short. In place of a fully-realized narrative structure complete with foundation, floor, supporting walls, and a roof, fretted with golden fire, what we get in his books are brilliantly executed but strangely strung-together episodes, many of which end up having nothing to do with anything else in the novel; or which one feels should have led to a wholly different novel. That brilliant pre-migraine scene in Atonement, for instance, serves no purpose in the rest of the story. In fact, neither does Emily Tallis, the migraine-sufferer herself. Instead, Emily drops off the page as the book goes on to tell the story of Emily’s daughter, Briony, a teenager (and budding writer), whose immature misreading of a romantic incident ruins the lives of two people close to her. It was as if the author got a terrific idea for a passage about an approaching migraine, and having no place else to put it at the moment, stuck it in the middle of the manuscript that happened to be on his desktop.

Worse, in that particular novel, after getting his readers to care about the star-crossed lovers whose lives are so adversely affected by the imaginative teenager, McEwan flips the reader a literary bird with a too-clever-by-half “meta-narrative strategy” that is so cynical, so artsy-fartsy trick-ending gimmicky—a poster child for the “Unreliable Narrator” school of postmodern lit fic—that my eldest son, when he read it, threw the book against the wall. Publishers Weekly adored it, of course, calling it a “coup de theatre.” Chacun a son goût.

Texts and Subtexts

My second disappointment with the fiction of Ian McEwan has to do with the man’s acute but narrow, even blinkered, vision. On the face of it, McEwan has made his well-deserved reputation with a lack of overt political or social agenda. And thank God for that, one might well exclaim, after all the exercises in narrative agitprop readers of fiction have had to endure for the last several decades, from potboilers like The Da Vinci Code to fêted literary works like Written on the Body. (The latter, if you haven’t heard of it, is Jeanette Winterson’s sly contrivance, crafted in such a clever way that the reader, in spite of the protagonist’s love affairs with both men and women, cannot for the life of him―or her―determine by the end of the book whether the protagonist is a him or a her. And if you think there isn’t an agenda in that, then you have surely been sleeping, Van Winkle-like, through the better part of the Sexual Revolution.)

But before one succumbs to some Pollyannaish notion that McEwan displays that laudatory disposition towards fair play and reticence such as only the British seem able to produce, caveat lector: The author’s seeming lack of overt system, of agenda, masks one of the most ferocious and all-pervasive systems in intellectual history: that psycho-matrix of rationalism, scientism, materialism, positivism, and relativism that nary an educated creature of the twenty-first century West can think beyond without the most strenuous of mental labors, and a robust measure of Grace.

By God, it’s in the very (hepa-filtered) air we breathe, and the (carbon-filtered) water we drink. I think, therefore I am (I think). And if what I think is true is at odds with what you think is true, we’ll either a) do a controlled experiment, the results of which will be brought into question by next year’s controlled experiment, or, b) take a poll to settle the matter in true democratic fashion, or c) agree to disagree by agreeing that nothing is true, nor does any of it matter a good goddamn, either way.

McEwan, it would do well to remember, is a self-proclaimed atheist. When PBS was doing its series on post-9/11 faith, it chose McEwan to represent those without any. And like many of his creed (so to speak), or of any creed, McEwan occasionally exhibits a phenomenal ignorance of people who do not share his.

I’ve yet to see anything in McEwan’s fiction to make me suspect that he understands the difference between religion and superstition, belief and ideology, faith and fanaticism; between the numinous and the irrational; between what physician-novelist (and believer) Walker Percy described as “the scientific method” (which Percy loved as much as any son of the Enlightenment), and what Percy decried as “scientism.”

Indeed, McEwan associates himself so vigorously with the Voltairean myth of the inherent enmity between Faith and Reason―a position continually rejected by the Church, at least―that he has turned his back on a significant portion of the heritage of that very western civilization that produced the scientific method in the first place; the part that, while hardly excluding science or reason (and born as much from Aquinas as Kant or Locke), also acknowledges Mystery; of other ways of knowing besides mathematical certainty. In other words, Tradition (what Chesterton called “the democracy of the dead”) and Faith.

In the hands of McEwan, scientism is both a gift and a curse; for if he can write better than anyone when the subject is amenable to a biological, neurological, Darwinian, or even a Freudian explanation, description or diagnosis, he succumbs to a peculiar failure of imagination when the thoughts or actions of a character invite the employment of the non-ratiocinative faculties.

Consider this neo-Darwinist passage from Enduring Love:

We lived in a mist of half-shared, unreliable perception, and our sense data came warped by a prism of desire and belief, which tilted our memories too. We saw and remembered in our own favor, and we persuaded ourselves along the way. Pitiless objectivity, especially about ourselves, was always a doomed social strategy. We’re descended from the indignant, passionate tellers of half-truths, who, in order to convince others, simultaneously convinced themselves. Over generations success had winnowed us out, and with success came our defect, carved deep in the genes like ruts in a cart track: when it didn’t suit us, we couldn’t agree on what was in front of us. Believing is seeing. That’s why there are divorces, border disputes, and wars, and why this statue of the Virgin Mary weeps blood and that one of Ganesh drinks milk. And that was why metaphysics and science were such courageous enterprises, such startling inventions, bigger than the wheel, bigger than agriculture, human artifacts set right against the grain of human nature. Disinterested truth. But it couldn’t save us from ourselves, the ruts were too deep. There could be no private redemption in objectivity. (Enduring Love, p. 196)

What happens when a novelist, even a brilliant one, brackets out a huge chunk of common human experience? McEwan is so much the atheist, the rationalist, the materialist, that the fictional world he creates in his novels is curiously two-dimensional and lacking in variety. One simply can’t imagine him, for instance, writing a historical novel set anytime before the modern period, so rooted is his curious mix of Enlightenment naïveté and postmodern cynicism. Even Atonement, his one attempt at a sort of historical novel, failed in this regard. Set in the period before and during the Second World War, there’s not a single figure in this rather large cast of characters who, even in the thick of battle or faced with death, seems aware that the majority of people around them believe in something called God and the Afterlife. These characters, like the author himself, appear to be untroubled atheists even in their imaginary foxholes.

By profession, a McEwan protag is likely to be a technician, a science writer, a neurosurgeon. The latter (Henry Perowne in Saturday, McEwan’s latest) seems especially fitting, given McEwan passion for biological tropes. And though perhaps honest enough at times to admit that he talks rationalism better than he walks it, a McEwan protag will invariably try to explain away his own occasional lapses into “irrationality” with polysyllabic references to neurological, bio-chemical, and trauma-induced stimuli or “evolutionary strategies.” Not that McEwan would be the first writer with a penchant for protagonists who are mirror-images of himself—in this case, atheistic hyper-rationalists so committed to the familiar terrain of scientific materialism that anything outside it, were it to be mapped, would have to be stamped, “Here be Dragons.”

And there’s the rub. For show me a McEwan “non-rationalist,” and I will show you either a female love-interest or ornery family member―some artist or literary type that the male protagonist simply cannot understand―or, if male, a threatening, out-of-control alcoholic, psychotic, or criminal with a degenerative disease.

Using words like surgical instruments, McEwan is wholly in his comfort zone when sketching these “Others”―detailing the dismal prognosis of an old woman slipping into Alzheimer’s, or limning the tell-tale features of Huntington’s disease in a clever but violent street thug, or describing, as from some Olympian professional distance, like a clinician eyeballing a virus under a microscope, the case history of a stalker suffering from erotomania.

Hound of Heaven or Feral Dog?

The problematic notion of a war between reason and science, on the one hand, and emotion, intuition and faith, on the other is so chronic a theme in McEwan’s fiction as to approach the obsessive; but only two of his books deal with religion directly: Black Dogs (1992) and Enduring Love (1997). The difference in vision and emotional impact between the two consecutive novels deserves a closer look.

The earlier book, Black Dogs, gives us an indecisive, between-two-worldviews narrator writing about his mother-in-law, June―a gruff-but-endearing mystic of New Age-ish persuasion. June is married to (but separated from) Bernard, a rationalist, atheist and (for many years) committed communist. For the narrator, this bickering pair sit as it were one on each shoulder, arguing their for- and against- religion cases like angels and devils in old Tom and Jerry toons.

The novel’s (and narrator’s) focus, however, is on June, and hers is a story of conversion—of a life-changing experience of the Numinous during an otherwise terrifying encounter with two wild black mastiffs in the French countryside. While the scene amply displays McEwan’s capacious gift for instilling horror and terror―Stephen King, I understand, is a fan―his description of June’s subsequent encounter with “a circle of light” is vague, vapid, abstract. I came away feeling that the subject held little interest for the author in any event, but thought McEwan deserved brownie points, at least, for his tolerant, even affectionate characterization of June. If the narrator (and author) couldn’t understand this woman, I thought, at least he could imagine understanding her, and that was nearly enough.

With the 1997 publication of his next novel, however, McEwan appears to have finally taken sides, and with a vengeance. Recently made into a so-so film starring Daniel Craig, Enduring Love details the shocking personal aftereffects of a random accident, in which several strangers are thrown together trying to save a young boy about to be carried away in a runaway helium balloon. The upshot: the protagonist, an (of course) atheistic/rationalist science writer, finds himself the prey of a different sort of feral hound: a “Jesus freak.” A Jesus freak, moreover, as the Christian reader soon discovers with a yadda-yadda sigh of weariness, whose increasingly violent obsession with the protagonist is wrapped up homoerotically with a desire to show the protag the light of God’s love.

Well, as Walker Percy once so charmingly put the case, “just because Jimmy Swaggart believes in God doesn’t mean that God does not exist.”

Not that McEwan is such a crude intellectual combatant that he fails to endow his hyper-rationalist hero with some borderline manias of his own—indeed, there were times when the protagonist, Joe Rose began to remind me of Chesterton’s famous dictum that a madman is not someone who has lost his reason, but someone who has lost everything except his reason. Still, there’s no question that vis-à-vis McEwan’s beloved “war” between Faith and Reason, his narrative voice took a sudden, shrill-shrieking and partisan turn in this novel. No longer the each-to-his-own tightrope-walker of 1992’s Black Dogs, the protagonist of 1998’s Enduring Love is not only committed, he’s condescending, cocky, and angry. The contrast is so sharp when one reads the two novels, as I did, back-to-back, that one can’t help wonder…what the hell happened?

While it would be perilous to hang so pronounced a shift on one little hook, a quick perusal of McEwan’s available biography brings forth the fascinating factoid that in the 1990s, during the time the author was writing Enduring Love, he was also engaged in a rancorous and occasionally bizarre divorce and custody battle, the details of which were splashed like acid all over the British tabloid press, reputedly the meanest in the world. The ex-wife in question, it falls out, was a self-styled clairvoyant, meditation-teacher and faith-healer.

In which case, my sympathies. Confirmed believers have lost their faiths over less.

The Problem of Empathy

What McEwan lacks most of all, in my view, is that imaginative empathy, indispensable for a really first rate novelist, that enables one to think inside the skin of people wholly different from oneself. This is especially discouraging since, in a sorrowing post-9/11 meditation entitled “Only Love and Then Oblivion,” McEwan had the wisdom to write:

It is hard to be cruel once you permit yourself to enter the mind of your victim. Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality….the hijackers used fanatical certainty, misplaced religious faith, and dehumanising hatred to purge themselves of the human instinct for empathy. Among their crimes was a failure of the imagination.

This is beautiful stuff; no Christian personalist could put it better. How unfortunate, then that among McEwan’s failures as a novelist, particularly a novelist with a fixation on the dodgy “Faith vs. Reason” dichotomy, is his seeming inability to “imagine what it is like to be someone” who is a believer—a believer, that is, who is not irrational, and certainly not dangerous, delusional, or obsessive. As it happens, in the real world, millions of us/them going about the streets every day, minding our/their own business; yet such as we/they never make it onto McEwan’s pages, nor those of many of his fellow literary lights, without being dressed in fool’s motley. Many of us/them have even contributed, and continue to contribute, to the history of that Science-with-a-capital-S that McEwan so clearly worships, from Newton and Copernicus to Fr. Mendel and the Curies.

It might be pertinent to mention in this context that like many male authors of the so-called “Great White Narcissist school” of fiction, McEwan not only peoples his books with intellectuals of the secular persuasion, there are also few people of color, working class or uneducated people in his work—the latter show up in Saturday only in criminal form, which is to say, as another example of “the Other.” When Zadie Smith, the young novelist of White Teeth fame, tried to call McEwan on this in a recent interview [Believer, August 2005], McEwan ducked the question with an appeal to the need to “frame” his stories—an image, I felt, that was uncannily apt, given the word’s secondary legal connotations involving the misapplication of guilt by way of false evidence.

Failure of Vison, or Failure of Nerve?

What Zadie Smith also described in her Believer interview as “the burst of the irrational into the rational,” usually in a terrifying form, is the central leitmotif in the work of McEwan; but after meeting Joe Rose, the protagonist of Enduring Love, I began to recognize another, different, more subtle, and in some ways even more chronic form of anxiety in McEwan’s fiction: a fear not only of the more bestial forms of non-rationality, but also of the everyday and human: particularly mental illness and age-related loss of mental acuity. (At least two of McEwan’s novels, for instance, have included characters stricken by dementia or Alzheimer’s.)

And then there’s the fear of being just plain wrong. A McEwan protagonist may try to explain away emotions like fear as the result of “neural activity in the amygdala, sunk deep in the old mammalian part of our brains,” but he also spends an awful lot of his word count reassuring himself of the correctness of his analysis, whatever the ostensible subject. Could the author, I began to wonder as I moved from book to book, be less certain of his own self-described “hard won” rationalism and atheism than he would like to think? Christians, of course, have it on best authority that the Dark Night of the Soul is a stage of development awaiting every believer who stays the course; but rationalists are not supposed to be troubled by such Clouds of Unknowing.

Which brings me to my final problem with the fiction of the immensely gifted Ian McEwan: it is a different sort of “failure of imagination” and it is on full display in McEwan’s latest novel, Saturday.

Acclaimed by some as the first great “post-9/11” novel, Saturday delivers another brilliantly McEwanesque opening sequence: a London neurosurgeon, Henry Perowne, wakes up too early on his day off with a vague sense of unease. Getting out of bed, Perowne ponders the lazy, pleasant Saturday to come as he gazes out the bedroom window of his posh London townhouse, only to see a passenger jet wheeling slowly across the sky, on fire from what may or not be, in this post-9/11 world, a terrorist incident.

If there is any truth to the traditional storytelling wisdom that there is an unspoken “contract” between author and reader, obliging authors to “pay off” incidents that are “set up”—and I guess I’m enough of a literary traditionalist to think that without some really good narrative reason, there is―then it may be understood why I felt put out, stiffed even, when the book failed in fact to be a “post-9/11 novel,” as many critics declared and as the opening led me to believe.

See, this isn’t a book about a wealthy and complacent Londoner (a sort of upscale Everyman) coming to terms with the post-9/11threat of global terrorism; it’s a series of conversations and episodes, highlighting the so-called “law of unintended consequences,” that eventually unfolds along domestic-thriller lines. That one of these conversations includes a father-daughter exchange about the War on Terrorism as it was building up against Iraq in February 2003 doesn’t signify that the opening setup is paid off in any meaningful way, or that the author affords his readers any insights on the mess. In the end, the only setup that is paid off in this novel involves a more “everyday” form of urban anxiety, an incident of road rage leading to a home invasion such as might have just as easily occurred in 1993 as 2003.

I suspect that this failure to answer his own first-scene questions might have something to do with McEwan’s lack of a firm metaphysical foundation for his ethical and political beliefs, whatever they may be. Consider: without such a foundation, how can anyone, even with the utmost benevolence, deal with thorny questions like the effect of Global Terrorism on the individual, and the individual’s responsibility in dealing with it? Or whether the 1938 Neville Chamberlain appeasement metaphor is applicable to Saddam’s Iraq? Or whether Bush and Blair were morally justified in responding to the events of 9/11 with “Shock and Awe” against a government that, whatever its evils, appears to have had nothing to do with 9/11?

On the face of it offering little beyond a “whatever will work best” pragmatism, McEwan’s Saturday quickly downshifted to a more domesticable set of narrative questions―from Scope to Microscope, as it were: When confronted on the street with three bullies, should the rationalist/pragmatist protagonist run, fight, or use his superior but rather abstract powers of ratiocination to humiliate the leader in front of his two thug-underlings? And if he does, what might be the unintended consequences?

And if he does, I began to ask myself as I read the book, after such a crack opening, will the reader give a damn?

I didn’t. Since every scenario in a McEwan novel unravels in terms of chance accidents and biochemical or evolutionary determinism, perhaps it was for the best that the author decided not to waste breath and brain cells on the huge question of how the west should respond to global terrorism. That’s a subject for this generation’s Dostoevsky or Tolstoy…would that we had one.

(An aside: From the sounds of it, filmmaker Paul Greengrass may have come far closer to the mark, despite McEwan’s dismissal of movies as an inherently “superficial” medium, with his United 93. We may also hope that Updike’s new novel, The Terrorist, proves not only a departure from Updike’s standard adultery-in-New England fare, but a little more ambitious on the subject of terrorism and the West.)

The “Vision” Thing

More than one critic has noted a certain hesitance, even duality in McEwan. “McEwan is a Freudian with an Orwellian sense of decency,” wrote Alice Truax on Slate.com. “Rationality is [for McEwan]…not an instinct but an achievement, a sandcastle no sooner built than washed away by the tides of the mind,” wrote Adam Mars-Jones of The Observer. According to critic John Lanchester, “Ian McEwan has left-wing convictions and a right-wing imagination; the things he feels he ought to think, and the images which well up when he sits down to write, are at war.”

McEwan even admits, from time to time, that things may be a bit more complicated than his overt scientism would allow, but he doesn’t seem to know what to do with these more-things-in-heaven-and-earth, Horatio, moments. “There are certain mistakes,” he notes in one of Joe Rose’s numerous scientific digressions in Enduring Love, this one about the ingenious rescue of the faulty Hubble telescope, “that no quantity of astronauts can right.”

There are hints in several of his novels that McEwan is aware of the limits of scientific knowledge and that, as he put it in a recent interview, “the innerlife…is not driven by surface rationality but by a spectrum of hints, certainties that have no base.” It is interesting to note then that even though his novels have become increasingly complacent of late in their rationalistic tenor—the days of the narrator being caught between the poles of Sense and Sensibility appear to be over—in Saturday, it is the “Sensibility” characters that effectively save the day. Indeed, it could even be argued that it is the Sensible Perowne, with his fiendishly acute and hyper-rational self-awareness, that got them all into the mess in the first place.

It was in the context of this Hamletesque duality, this “thinking too precisely on the event,” that it occurred to me that McEwan’s reluctance to take on a large-scale subject, despite his large-scale literary gifts, might have more to do with a lack of philosophical confidence and vision than any possible literary shortcomings. Both Atonement and the opening scenes of Saturday prove that McEwan has the literary capacity to tackle a large canvas, but perhaps not the largeness of mind to wrap his skills around it. Nor, perhaps, the courage to risk his distinguished literary reputation on a venture into the dragon-ridden realms of “moral fiction”―the late John Gardner might approve, were he really to give it a go, but whether The New York Review of Books would is less certain.

To be or not to be

In 1949, Laurence Olivier filmed a screen version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet that became instantly famous for Olivier’s voice-over prologue announcing that Hamlet was a play “about a man who could not make up his mind.” Perhaps “infamous” would be the better word, for Olivier’s little “frame” has echoed through the decades as incredibly simplistic in reference to Shakespeare’s fiendishly complex play; but I found myself reminded of it constantly as I made my way through McEwan’s oeuvre. The chiseled narrative voice of this writer, I felt, with the possible exception of his furious Enduring Love, was generally so cagey and hyper-cautious, so laden with the subtle sophistries of a man unwilling to take responsibility for the implications of his own alleged beliefs, that I began to long for an unexpected political or ideological outburst, even at the risk of agitprop. After all, you can’t be proven wrong if you don’t make a statement, and one of the hallmarks of the scientific method is falsifiability.

McEwan’s opting for the path of least resistance in Saturday felt less like an average citizen’s quandary about his competence to make an informed decision on one of the most complex “personal-is-political” issues of our day, than the indecision of a man so lacking a moral foundation on which to hang a Just War argument, for or against, that simple paralysis ensued; a sophisticated literary rendition of “I don’t know, so do let’s talk about something else.”

Or, as a football-fan friend of mine would have it, McEwan, one of the most gifted players on the field of fiction, just when he had the ball in hand, an open lane to the end zone, and his career-best chance to have a go at this century’s War and Peace, the mother of all literary touchdowns, he punted.

On Becoming a Classic

Even with a wordsmith as supremely gifted as McEwan, it would not surprise me if his fiction, as it stands, did not survive the test of time—that mysterious process that renders one work a “classic” and another no more than a footnote in some future grad student’s doctoral dissertation on “Postmodern meta-narrative” or “Communities of Anxiety in early twenty-first century English literature,” or “The Great White Narcissist school of fiction from Mailer to McEwan.” For when it comes to the process by which our present chaos might be organized into some harmony, at least intellectual harmony, McEwan, unlike many of the “Greats” before him, seems to have nothing to offer the reader beyond technical prowess and a predilection for the outdated intellectual fashions of the Enlightenment, dressed up in postmodern robes.

This is a highly personal view, of course; but for me, wasting a talent like this on what one critic called “over-extended short stories” written in the acid-ink of chronic Voltairean dyspepsia, is like taking out an enemy trench with a nuclear warhead. No question it gets the job done, if you’re into that sort of thing, but leaves many a reader with a profound sense of disappointment at the crater-sized might-have-beens. Grouchy meaning-junkie that I am, I am tempted to paraphrase the writer-protagonist of Atonement that, when it comes to Ian McEwan, “it was not the backbone of a story that [he] lacked. It was backbone.”

[Originally published in Second Spring Journal (http://www.secondspring.co.uk) and used by permission of the author.]


Catholic novelist ("The Mystery of Things") and publisher of Idylls Press, founded in 2005 with the mission of "publishing the Catholic imagination."

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