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The Catholic Culture Podcast

A weekly podcast hosted by musician and writer Thomas V. Mirus, exploring everything Catholic, with a special focus on arts and culture. Dedicated to the Holy Family. An extension of

Mar 24, 2020

This episode features two young Catholic publishers who are doing cutting-edge work to preserve and carry forward the Catholic literary legacy, building on the accomplishments of the great Catholic writers of the 20th century in particular.

The first guest is Joshua Hren, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Wiseblood Books. Wiseblood's focus is on cultivating and publishing new works that maintain a high standard of literary quality and Catholic vision: featuring up-and-coming writers alongside established successes like Dana Gioia, Samuel Hazo, James Matthew Wilson, and Michael O’Brien.

Besides introducing us to the Wiseblood catalogue, Joshua talks about his own fiction and non-fiction writing and his calling as an editor. He and Thomas discuss issues in Catholic fiction such the danger of a narrow preoccupation with modern neuroses, and flaunting the secular taboo of “cultural appropriation” (e.g., the idea that white authors cannot write black characters).

The second guest is John Emmet Clarke, Editor-in-Chief of Cluny Media. This family business is preserving and reintroducing forgotten Catholic classics of the 20th century, bringing to the surface the submerged lineage of many of our favorite authors—republishing crucial writers like François Mauriac, Charles Peguy, and Romano Guardini.

A recurring theme in both interviews is the influence of Flannery O’Connor. Wiseblood Books is, of course, named after her first novel, though that doesn’t stop Thomas and Joshua from throwing some slight, friendly shade at her dominance over the discussion of 20th-century Catholic “literary” fiction. Meanwhile, John Emmet Clarke says that if she described the South she portrayed as “Christ-haunted”, the Cluny catalogue could be said to be “Flannery-O’Connor-haunted” in a reverse sense, as they publish many authors who influenced her.



Joshua Hren

[4:11] The upcoming Colosseum Summer Institute, a workshop for poets and fiction writers given by Josh Hren and James Matthew Wilson

[9:25] The necessity of “cultural appropriation” in fiction

[12:59] The mission of Wiseblood Books: “Wide-eyed for continuities of beauty and truth”

[15:55] Using short-form publications to generate interest in the Catholic literary heritage

[18:10] Dana Gioia’s crucial support and encouragement

[21:48] Michael O’Brien’s writings for Wiseblood about the Apocalypse and sexual abuse

[24:59] Wiseblood’s newest novel: Samuel Hazo’s If Nobody Calls, I’m Not Home

[27:20] Wiseblood’s residency program bringing promising works-in-progress to fruition

[32:22] Apologia for the role of a fiction editor

[42:43] Joshua's conversion and marriage story

[50:41] Joshua’s fiction writing: Stream-of-consciousness, poetic prose, people under pressure

[1:05:30] Examining “Christ-haunted fiction” in his How to Read and Write Like a Catholic

[1:13:43] The dominance of Flannery O’Connor in our awareness of 20th-c. Catholic fiction and the need to rediscover other great writers like J.F. Powers

[1:18:24] Is there a narrowness to O’Connor’s focus on uniquely modern neuroses? Contrasts with Tolkien and Manzoni


John Emmet Clarke

[1:26:18] The mission of Cluny Media: promoting the 20th-century Catholic literary tradition

[1:29:46] The process of republishing out-of-print works

[1:32:39] Showing the hidden lineage of well-known Catholic authors; Mauriac’s fiction; writers who influenced O’Connor; Fulton Sheen

[1:41:10] Scholarly works of Ven. Sheen

[1:42:21] New works published by Cluny

[1:44:09] Cluny's connections to the Dominican Order

[1:46:18] A family business; looking to the past for directions for the future

[1:49:06] Cluny's distribution partnerships with parishes



Cluny has made a discount offer available to Catholic Culture Podcast listeners. To receive the discount code, sign up to their mailing list at this link and include "Catholic Culture Podcast" in the Affiliation tab of the form.

All of Wiseblood’s offerings are discounted if purchased directly from their website:

Colosseum Summer Institute


Wiseblood Books mentioned in this episode:

Ryan Wilson, How to Think Like a Poet

Dana Gioia, The Catholic Writer Today and Other Essays

James Matthew Wilson, The River of the Immaculate Conception

Michael D. O’Brien (contributor), Abuse of Sexuality in the Catholic  Church

Michael D. O’Brien, The Apocalypse: Warning, Hope & Consolation

Samuel Hazo, If Nobody Calls, I’m Not Home: The Open Letters of Bim Nakely

Writings by Joshua Hren mentioned in this episode:

“The First Commandment of Fiction”

“A Crisis of Curiositas”

Joshua Hren has two forthcoming books: In the Wine Press, his second collection of short stories, from Angelico Press, and How to Read and Write Like a Catholic, from TAN Books. His previously published books are:

This Our Exile: Short Stories

Middle-Earth and the Return to the Common Good: J.R.R. Tolkien and Political Philosophy

Cluny Media books mentioned:

Lyra Martyrum: The Poetry of the English Martyrs, 1503-1681

François Mauriac

Caroline Gordon, The Malefactors

Fulton Sheen

Augustine Di Nioia, O.P., Grace in Season

Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., Philosophizing in Faith

Humbert Clerissac, O.P., The Mystery of the Church

Past podcast interviews mentioned:

Dana Gioia

Samuel Hazo

James Matthew Wilson

Poetry of the English Martyrs

Matthew Minerd on Garrigou-Lagrange

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