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The Catholic by David Plante

April 14, 2016

TC 2Intensely self-conscious Daniel is drawn to Henry, with whom he has one-night stand. The orgiastic night of sweaty sex is explicitly described. Henry’s significance to Daniel exceeds his role in Daniel’s life, and Daniel painfully knows this. The stranger represents an unrealized longing for an ideal: the selflessly beautiful goal Daniel’s religion and upbringing have taught him to yearn for but for which they have provided no satisfaction. Daniel sees his self-consciousness as a burden only the thing that denies the self can make him happy.

Words, phrases, ideas are repeated rhythmically. The character isn’t revealed through action but by his thoughts.

The author’s novels examine the spiritual in a variety of contexts, but notably in the milieu of large, working-class, Catholic families of French Canadian background similar to his own. In this book, he probes passion and guilt, identity and relationship. The author is now a lapsed Roman Catholic, who was educated by Jesuits, he became guilt-ridden over both his abandonment of the faith and his homosexuality Like Daniel, too, he is obsessed at once with himself and with a fervent desire to be emancipated from that self into an alien realm: “God had made me, from my birth, want to be in another world.”


“Inside the museum, I wandered from room to room. I stopped when I came to the Attic statue of a boy’s torso. . . . I looked around to make sure I was alone in the room; I got near the statue and delicately touched its thigh, then quickly withdrew it. . . . I wanted the inaccessible body. . . . It came to me that that torso, in the warm spring light, was more naked than any body I had ever seen.”

“His body gave his talk subtlety, or whatever subtlety there was in it. That was Charlie’s secret: He was able to infuse his words with the beauty of his body, and while you listened to him, you sensed the warmth of his skin in the words which would otherwise have been dead.”

“I recognized what happened to me when I became possessed. I could hardly take in that young man, except in details: not an ear, but the lobe of an ear; not his neck and chin, but the curve of his jaw under the earlobe; not his hair, but a fine curl behind his ear. . . . What came now was that sense, that deepeningly amazed sense, of something happening to me for which you will give up everything.” Later: “I made a crazy act of faith: in the certain knowledge that our love making had no meaning, I nevertheless believed that it did.”

“He left me with a desire for faith which was impossible. . . . There was nothing I could do but ask myself where such desire came from. Where did such awareness, never to be fulfilled, come from? Why was there such a sense of promise in us, if the promise would never be kept? Why should we so want what we knew we would never get?”

“I was unsure about the differences between sexes, and could only distinguish them by the feelings they aroused in me; and I noted, as I’d noted in the presence of many women, that Roberta’s body was, to me, fixed solidly in her personality, which, being a unique personality, made her body unique, so it was as if she, as each woman, had her own sex. There was not a female sex.”

The body, which was Charlie’s body, took over my entire attention,”

“His body was a country with its own special gravity where I believed I would get everything I wanted. I was not sure what I wanted but the moment I got to that other country I knew that what I wanted would be both revealed and realized”

“Even if he had come down to save me from what we both knew was a meaningless passion, and which it should give me pleasure to see destroyed, I would not let him do it. I would turn the struggle with him into lovemaking, and I would make our lovemaking meaningful. Henry was trying to lift from me that stark image of himself. I restrained him”

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From → Sexuality

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