Fridays with Friends: An Interview with Joseph Pearce

As I promised in my recent post Keeping poetry in the world, this year All Nine will bring in more of the muses (beyond poetry) and more special guests. I am excited to announce this first in a new series called “Fridays with Friends” in which we feature artists from across a wide spectrum and give them an opportunity to share about their sources of inspiration.

Image courtesy Joseph Pearce
Image courtesy Joseph Pearce

Our first special guest today is Joseph Pearce. A distinguished and widely published author, Joseph Pearce is a biographer of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, G.K. Chesterton, and the author of the highly regarded study, Literary Converts, with chapters devoted to Oscar Wilde, Evelyn Waugh, C.S. Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, Graham Greene, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Hilaire Belloc, Chesterton, Dorothy Sayers, T.S. Eliot and J.R.R. Tolkien.  In 2002, in recognition of his biography of Solzhenitsyn, Joseph received the prestigious John Pollock Award for Christian Biography.

Kevin Belmonte, distinguished author of Miraculous (and distinguished husband of moi), conducted this interview with Joseph:

Image courtesy Joseph Pearce
Image courtesy Joseph Pearce

Kevin Belmonte:  What/who/where are your consistent sources of inspiration?

Joseph Pearce: The greatest and most consistent source of inspiration is Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body, the Church. At the deepest level every creative gift comes from Christ. He is the giver of all talents. As such, I could do nothing without Him. In a different but nonetheless crucial way, I am always being inspired by the teaching of the Church in the splendour of the truth enunciated theologically and philosophically and by the lives and example of the saints.

On yet another level I am constantly being inspired by the people about whom I write, such as Shakespeare, Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton and Belloc, to name an illustrious few, and also by those wonderful Christians with whom I work and collaborate, the names of whom would be too numerous to mention.

KB: What artists (musicians, poets, painters, photographers, filmmakers, etc) are you following/do you recommend? (i.e. who are your favourites?)

JP: I have so many favourites that its difficult to know where to start, and even more difficult to know when to finish!

Music: Gregorian chant, Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, William Byrd, Bach, Schubert, Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner, Richard Strauss, Sibelius, Smetana, and Arvo Pärt. I also like smatterings of folk music and tradition-oriented country music, and a little rock n roll!

Poetry: Dante (the Master!), St. John of the Cross, St. Robert Southwell, Shakespeare (of course!), Herbert, Crashaw, Dryden, Thomas Gray’s Elegy, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley (some, not all), Keats, Newman, Hopkins (sublime!), Belloc, Chesterton, Yeats, Sassoon, Eliot, Campbell, R. S. Thomas.

Novels/Novelists: The Betrothed by Manzoni; anything by Jane Austen, Dostoyevsky and Dickens; the novels of R. H. Benson and Maurice Baring; Chesterton; Kristen Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset; Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh; most of Orwell; anything by Solzhenitsyn; Father Elijah by Michael O’Brien. Oh, and everything by Tolkien and Lewis!

Films: The Passion of Joan of Arc; A Man for All Seasons; Brideshead Revisited (the original 1980s British TV adaptation, not the hideous recent Hollywood debauch!); Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth version); Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson); Babette’s Feast; The Lord of the Rings (in spite of the bad parts!).

Painters/Paintings: Anything mediaeval! The Wilton Diptcych; Grünewald’s Isenheim altarpiece (gruesome!); Rossetti’s “Beata Beatrice”; the Pre-Raphaelites; Monet’s studies of Rouen Cathedral; Constable and Turner; Dali (much, not all).

KB: How can readers of All Nine get involved in what you’re doing?

JP: My books have been published by several publishers, including Ignatius Press (www.ignatius.com), St. Benedict Press (www.saintbenedictpress.com), St. Augustine’s Press (www.staugustine.net) and ISI Books. I am also executive director of Catholic Courses (www.catholiccourses.com) and series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions (www.ignatiuscriticaleditions.com). Last but not least, I am co-editor of the St. Austin Review (www.staustinreview.com), a journal of Christian culture published six times per year. Perhaps I should also mention that I am writer in residence at Thomas More College in New Hampshire where I am teaching a course on the Catholic Writer this semester.

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