Paul Elie in His Own Words
I plan to take up the topic of Catholic publishing through the central image of my first book, The Life You Save May Be Your Own -- the image or pattern of pilgrimage -- and through my sense of what a book is and how it works.
A pilgrimage, as I set it out in the book, is a journey undertaken in light of a story. The story precedes us; we join it in progress. We set out on a path others have taken before us, to see what they have seen – but to see for ourselves. We set out in groups, in company – but the goal of the pilgrimage is individual apprehension. Having gone, we undertake to tell others about the experience, so as to prompt them to go on pilgrimage themselves. The four writers in The Life You Save May Be Your Own, in their different ways, carried out this pattern in their lives and work – in ways I’ll spell out in the address.
Of particular interest for Catholic publishers, it seems to me, will be my sense of the nature of the book and the role it plays in this process. A book is generally written by a person sitting alone, and is read by a person sitting alone. In this sense a book is an unusually direct and personal medium of communication. At the same time, books are published – made public – by people working in groups: publishers, book reviewers, booksellers, and the like. And a book (as distinct from an article or web post) is “a text of a certain length that time was taken with”: it offers an opportunity for sustained attention and absorption in narrative time.
Reading a book, then, is a very powerful way for many people to participate in a distinctly individual experience across time. This sense of the book and of reading is full of implications for Catholic spirituality, and so for Catholic publishing.