Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.


Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Varieties of Irreligious Experience III: Andre Dubus

Dubus was a lifelong Catholic whose faith deepened after a car accident left him wheelchair-bound. In both his essays and fiction following the accident--what he calls his crippling--he writes unsparingly about the physical and mental anguish of disability.

An immediate family member of mine is wheelchair-bound due to illness. In the initial worst days of getting accustomed to the chair and its attendant realities, I searched out any available writing on the subject. Much of it was contained homilies of the most enraging sort, all relating to finding comfort in Jesus, in God. Many, including a doctor, suggested we turn to the Church. One person told me I needed to come to term with my Jewish Feminist roots.

These were the words of people who did not know what to say, but felt they must say something. It is difficult for me to quantify how angry those thoughtless individuals made me. Dubus was the first writer I read who admitted that being in a wheelchair, not to put too fine a point on it, just plain sucks. That it's hell on families, wives, caretakers. That it robs people of their dignity, and often, their will to continue. Dubus, in his pain, turned to God. His writing on the sacraments is unaffected and moving; he takes comfort in God's presence, in taking communion.

I will never take communion, but I can understand the notion of sacrament: the trees at the end of our street are fully leaved and August-lush, nearly meeting overhead. The roses are in bloom everywhere. They are beautiful despite my continuous grief. This, to me, is what Dubus' sacraments must be like. Without his writing I would never have known this to be true.

Some good books by Dubus...

Meditations from a Movable Chair

Broken Vessels

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