I also write fiction. One of my short stories, “Phantom Limb,” received an honorable mention for the J.F. Powers Prize for Short Fiction for the literary magazine Dappled Things.
A Word on Fiction
I’m especially drawn to short stories. I think short stories have a unique ability to offer intimate, unfiltered glances into the human experience. Short and immediate, like a nostalgic song heard on the radio, they can leave us exposed. The first short story that unsettled and stirred me was John Cheever’s The Swimmer. I remember reading the last sentence, dropping the book beside me and fixing my eyes on the ceiling. It haunted me. It changed me. Most importantly, it made me feel something. Although I had read and enjoyed several works of fiction before then, for some reason when I read that story I tapped into something other—a longing for a beauty that can’t be fulfilled in this world. It convinced me I had a soul. I was captivated by it’s poetic language, weighty themes and rich depiction of suburbia, life and growing old. It was at that moment, sitting on a bed in my college dorm room that I discovered the frightening power of fiction. It can break our limited vision of the world, forcing us to look, both inside and out, at the mystery of human existence—at our capacity for love, hatred, beauty, destruction, peace and evil.
This belief in the power of words is what fuels my own writing. I’m interested in exploring how God’s grace, though often subtle and unassuming, is continuously offered in our lives. At times we respond to it, allowing light into a world that otherwise lingers in shadow. Other times we refuse it—continuing in our brokenness, fumbling, searching, dying.
Many writers have inspired my writing, from F. Scott Fitzgerald and Flannery O’Connor to Raymond Carver and Alice Munro. They, and many other gifted writers, have revealed my humanity—both the glory and horror of it—in ways I never thought possible. For all of the writers who’ve helped shape my view of the world, given me a greater capacity for human empathy and understanding and revealed a flicker of the Divine, I say thank you.
Beauty is a key to the mystery and a call to transcendence. It is an invitation to savor life and to dream of the future. That is why the beauty of created things can never fully satisfy. It stirs that hidden nostalgia for God which a lover of beauty like Saint Augustine could express in incomparable terms: “Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you!”.
Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artist
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