It’s kind of a nice short book to spend a lazy summer afternoon reading. Why bog readers down with all the footnotes?
We have them all in the back, so you can read the novel unobstructed. But as I started researching the book I started realizing how good of a writer Connolly was. So I’m looking up all kinds of things. The annotations help us realize how aware Connolly was of history, scripture, theology, locale, the regional details that he uses to make Boston and New York come alive, the historical roots of places, architecture — and he weaves all these threads together to make the book work as a whole. He uses theological words like “dullness” — not referring to something that’s dull in taste or color but dull as in the spiritual state that Aquinas speaks of.
There’s this great scene in which Blue and the narrator are walking together in downtown Boston, and Connolly structures the scene such that they walk through all the historical sites and places of the American Revolution, and he mentions all these places as they walk. I annotate all the little things that are going on as they’re on that walk: They’re walking past this building, they’re walking past that building. What significance does each have?
And it’s at the end of that walk that Blue tells the narrator that he’s taking up a deeper cross; he implies that he’s going to start living his vocation to the fullest.
Connolly is trying to recover the Americanness of what it means to be an American Catholic. Fitzgerald, in The Great Gatsby, had tried to pronounce American Catholicism as dead in the water. Connolly might as well be saying, “Oh no, it’s not dead. It’s hard, but it’s not dead.”
What else about Myles Connolly is worth checking out?
He knew how to tell a good story. He was one of the most successful [Hollywood] screenwriters in his generation. He worked with Frank Capra quite a bit. His collaboration with him is definitely worth looking into. He’s uncredited for a lot of work with Capra. There is some evidence that he helped with It’s a Wonderful Life. He had an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay, for Music for Millions. He worked with Capra on State of the Union, which is definitely worth seeing.
All his other books are out of print, but when we started contacting the Connolly estate to get permission to do this, they looked over our edition and everything. They were so happy with it that they gave us permission to reprint all his other works. So Cluny is going to be doing that over the next couple of years.
John Burgeris news editor for Aleteia’s English edition.