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Download The Edge of Sadness epub

by Edwin O'Connor

“A realistic Christian novel of hope in a non-Christian age.”â?New England Quarterly
Download The Edge of Sadness epub
ISBN: 0883472597
ISBN13: 978-0883472590
Category: Literature
Subcategory: United States
Author: Edwin O'Connor
Language: English
Publisher: Thomas More Pr (February 1, 1991)
ePUB size: 1568 kb
FB2 size: 1186 kb
Rating: 4.3
Votes: 590
Other Formats: mobi mbr lrf txt

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“The Edge of Sadness” by Edwin O’Connor is a 1961 fictional tale of Father Hugh Kennedy, a middle-aged pastor navigating his way in a parish strikingly similar to the cinematic St. Dominic’s of “Going My Way.” Father Kennedy, alas, does not have a Bing Crosby colleague in his rectory, but a newly ordained Polish curate who “drank the Kool-aid” in his 1950’s seminary and burst forward, bubbling with dedication and ambition but without a trace of Augustinian pessimism or realism about human nature. One might ask why a man of Father Kennedy ‘s seniority is exiled to the decaying St. Paul’s while his classmate and closest facsimile to a friend, Father John Carmody, enjoys the prestige of the high visibility of the city’s flagship St. Raymond.

The author has set us “in medias res” and it is only gradually that we learn Father Kennedy has returned from four years of alcoholic rehabilitation. In the book’s first person narrative Father Kennedy connects his surge of midlife consumption to the death of his own father, but a perceptive reader will probably pick up on earlier cues of exhaustion, spiritual difficulties, and probably mild depression or dysthymia. It is also fairly evident that Father Kennedy’s rehabilitation is not complete, psychologically or ecclesiastically. His enigmatic bishop has placed him at St. Paul’s to ease him back from his “disgrace” into the diocesan machinery. As far back as 1960 protecting the corporate image was never far from a bishop’s mind. St. Paul’s might be less work but its encroaching death as a viable parish can hardly be considered tonic for a wounded priest’s soul.

Any recovering alcoholic who has “worked the twelve steps” in the jargon of AA is intensely schooled in what the founders called “rigorous honesty.” Much of the cathartic drama of this work is Father Kennedy’s involvement with the Carmody clan, a family he has known from childhood and which produced his priestly classmate, the aforementioned Father John. Father Kennedy’s first halting steps back into diocesan social life are induced by the family’s warm welcome, but there is an agenda: the Carmody clan would today be labeled as dysfunctional, in that unique way that one word of truth from an outsider would bring it tumbling into utter chaos. Father Kennedy’s inability to speak the truth to this extended presence of a family in his life is his prolonged roadblock to spiritual and psychological wholeness.

The head of the Carmody clan is Charlie Carmody, the very working model of narcissism, self-absorption and cruel indifference to others. I often wish that seminaries today offered courses on dealing with S.O.B.’s. Every parish has them, and sacramental protocol over the years has kept priests and other parish ministers from protecting themselves from the personality disordered Catholic. Charlie Carmody has sucked the blood out of his entire family, and as we eventually learn, particularly from his priestly son. Father Kennedy is surprised at Charlie’s interest in his life and through much of the work the priest is left hanging, waiting for the other shoe. The naïve but sympathetic curate believes the crumbling parish is about to get a windfall for restoration, but the pastor, like a hardened detective, knows there is more to this story.

Not surprisingly it is multiple crises in the clan that leave an impact upon Father Kennedy. Having witnessed two Carmody denouements in rapid fire, he gradually rediscovers the better tenets of his rehabilitation. I would not say that he becomes a happier man, but his duties are less odious, his energies more observable, and he is able to talk to his bishop about his future with less of the defensiveness and caginess that so often marks chancery communications.

I must say that I fully agree with Ron Hansen’s 2005 introduction regarding the hero’s priestly life style. Virtually nowhere is there an extended episode of Father Kennedy exercising priestly ministry. Not a sermon, not a CYO dance, no mention of the content of meditation. (At the risk of sounding irreverent, Hugh Kennedy is the antithesis of the Andrew Greeley fictional priests of a later generation.) Hansen refers to this work as an American variation on the “Dark Night of the Soul” of St. John of the Cross, and he may be right.

It is certainly true that novelist Edwin O’Connor has knowingly or unknowingly hit the nail on the head regarding at least two facets of priestly life that remain true today. O’Connor was not a priest (nor did he drink) but his description of rectory life in 1960 is spot on, and is probably accurate today. Rectories are not “homes.” Big or small, they are institutions and extensions of the parish business, built for the convenience of the parish public. Rare is the priest who “stays home” on his day off.

The physical situation and lifestyle of the rectory opens the door to a second, and probably more critical, question, one that both Fathers Hugh Kennedy and John Carmody wrestle with throughout the book. Exactly who are they supposed to be? Kennedy, from every indication, undertook his early days of priesthood with serious dedication to the pastoral (and at times pathological) needs of his charges. Only too late did he discover the trap door of his lifestyle, that “parish needs” deplete the spirit while stealing the priest‘s necessary and restorative interior life. In short, a parish priest lives a lifestyle where his monastic side suffers from the demands of the marketplace.

It is worth noting that Vatican II opened just a few years after the publishing of this work. It would be satisfying to say that the contradictions underscored by O’Connor are a thing of the past. Recent research within the past five years finds that priests are happy—but, they distrust bishops, report significant difficulties with the laity, and prefer to live alone. Aside from its literary excellence, this work is a valuable timepiece that in many respects can be superimposed on our own times.
Actually, I would give it 4 1/2 stars. It was worth reading and re-reading. It showed the goodness in the ordinary, rather annoying people that you run into every day.

This was written in 1961: the Catholic literary revival was nearly at an end at that time. The new view was that a Catholic writer should be a writer who just happened to be Catholic, and that to be overtly Catholic would be to be in a Catholic "ghetto"--even though the literary revival had been very successful in reaching out and attacking coverts. Probably, as a result, the author takes just about half a step back...and is just a LITTLE more of an observer. But it is still quite good.

This is a book about the pre-Vatican II Church, and it is published by Loyola Press. Do you see the problem? Well, they made peace with themselves for publishing it by having somebody write a pre-emptautory strike on the novel as an Introduction--a depressingly common tactic regarding the older books. The Introduction is stupid: read it after the novel if at all.
I teach the history of American Literature to an average but hard to excite group of students. I have included The Edge of Sadness as required reading for two years and the students were so taken with it and talked so much about the class that the faculty was curious about what I was teaching and asked me to do a faculty presentation on the book and author. Later, a philosophy professor stood up in a faculty meeting and remarked on how the class had been inspired by the book. It got a round of applause. It is a truly extraordinary book...of course, it won the Pulitzer Prize. If you have not read The Edge of Sadness, you have a terrible lacuna in your reading. almost all the students bought the book from Amazon or on Kindle Fire.
I believe this book won a Pulitzer Prize. It's a wonderful read. I'm not sure how Edwin could write so articulately on the subject matter but he's brilliant and his style of writing makes this pretty long book an easy read.
i was surprised at how much i loved this book. It's written and set in 1961, but it seems so contemporary, so vibrant. The characters just come alive. Our narrator is a parish priest who's had a problem, and his interaction with a family he's known since childhood. We see various family dynamics and interactions. The backdrop of the church is intriguing. I really got into it and couldn't put it down.
While this novel might appear to be dated as it's set in the pre-Vatican II U.S. Catholic Church, its themes and characters are eternal. O'Connor writes with great feeling toward and knowledge of the Irish-American community as he explores loss, love, redemption, and spiritual growth. Though the book focuses on a serious theme -- a recovering alcoholic priest's re-entry into his home diocese -- it has healthy doses of solid humor. It deserves reading and rereading.
Amazing book! Although it deals with a world so removed from our own as to hardly seem to belong to the same country, yet the problems dealt with are as valid today as they were then!!
I guess as an English major, I appreciate fine writing. Too many modern books are just filled with action -- no depth. I appreciate something that's "chewy." Most of my Book Club didn't enjoy this book as much as I did.