“The Long Black Line”
by John L’Heureux
from the May 21, 2018 issue of The New Yorker
A couple of years ago The New Yorker published John L’Heureux’s “Three Short Moments in a Long Life” (see our post here). That was the first time I’d ever read anything by L’Heureux; in fact, I don’t think I’d heard of him before despite the fact he is in his 80s and has been publishing since the 1960s. I really liked “Three Short Moments in a Long Life,” though there were some who did not care for it. I remember loving the direct, assured prose. I haven’t followed up and read more, though, so I’m glad to see this week we get another of his stories.
For much of his early adulthood, L’Heureux was a Jesuit priest. He left the priesthood in 1971 and married. It looks like this story takes us back to that prior life. Here is how it begins:
Finn said an awkward goodbye to his parents and watched them drive off in the new Buick they had bought in case he changed his mind. They were pleased, of course, at Finn’s decision to study for the priesthood, but they were wary, too. It was 1954, and priests were still thought to be holy, and Finn . . . well . . . Finn knew that he wasn’t holy, but during a retreat in college he had succumbed to a fit of piety and, dizzied by the idea of sacrifice, applied to join the Jesuits. They had put him through a series of interviews, and let him know that he seemed altogether too caught up in theatre, but in the end they had accepted him. So now here he was, almost a Jesuit, and this annoying Brother Reilly kept calling him Brother.
I’m looking forward to it, and anxious to see how the discussion below unfolds.