So, what are you reading? (That is, after you set aside these pages or swipe your screen to the next words and images that warrant your attention.) What’s on the list for the summer, in the stack beside the bed, at your elbow on the beach? For your edification or amusement? Or for course prep, travel prep, or stage-of-life prep? For improvement—of self or home or the whole blessed world? And maybe another good question to go with that, revisiting your college days now, and what you’ve done with the years or decades since then: Which books rocked your world, taught you a new way of seeing, surprised and delighted and plumbed the depths of tragedy and sorrow? What is the poetry and prose, whose are the voices—writers’ and characters’ alike—that spoke to you? Where are the geographies that writers have taken you in the imagination, or the earthly places that they’ve drawn you to visit, so that you could walk in their footsteps, dine where they supped, paddle a canoe in their wake?
Feel free to pause and reel off a few answers right now. While you’re thinking, while you’re reading, maybe keep in mind the simple fact that some books only resonate the second time around. Others you loved back then, when they rang true or roared profound to your younger self, but today—well, not so much. Some reading (both summery and autumnal) comes and goes. But what persists, what continues to sustain us when we need it most?
Flannery O’Connor has been good to me in that stick-with-you kind of way. From the Rocks in me shoes! excitement of first discovery and, over time, suffering and dark grace kissed by barbed wire: grotesque and compelling, urgent and somehow antique at the same time. She’s here, by the way—in this edition of the magazine, inside the essay by renowned poet Dana Gioia, “The Catholic writer today.” Many other writers are, too, as Gioia asks hard questions that tease out threads of our vibrant, sprawling, still-unfurling literary fabric. What’s not there are pat answers or a narrow sense of identity. Because, for one thing: “Culture is not an intellectual abstraction. It is human energy expressed through creativity, conversation, and community.” That’s a pretty good star to steer by for a magazine, too.
Keep the faith,
Steven Boyd Saum