The ambiguous, searching vision of Jamie Quatro

Her father was a physician, her mother a classical pianist. Jamie Quatro grew up in California and did her  MFA in British Romantic Poetry. Her fiction brought acclaim on publication, with characters who are serious salvation-seeking Christians caught up in ambiguous troubling relationships and struggling with doubt and  their own shying away from commitment to faith traditions  or encounters with the Divine. Influenced by Christian Wiman and Flannery O’Connor  but with a voice and  way of seeing all her own.


From Demolition


“the missing stained glass was a gift. With only the lead outlines remaining, the familiar Bible stories were now articulated in three dimensions: yellow-greens of spring maple and silvered sprays of pine, fade-to-gray of cloud, blue sky beyond. Could it be, we said, that in this fusion of the ancient stories with present-day creation, God meant to reawaken our childhood sense of mystery? Hadn’t some of us noticed, lately, gilded horizon lines at the borders of things, a refracted spangling along the edges of sidewalks? Hadn’t others of us sworn we’d felt a finger brush the backs of our necks or calves while we stood loading our dishwashers, brushing our teeth? Perhaps, we said, God wanted gently to remind us of the world we’d forgotten about, the other Nature hovering just behind our own; and though we couldn’t see it–not yet–we grew increasingly certain it was there, just in front of us, waiting on the other side of a one-way mirror, breath fogging up the glass.”


An interview here in which  Quatro speaks about reclaiming ritual:

Performance, ritual: why do we think of these terms as pejorative? Performance is a part of nearly everything we do. Are we ever not performing, to some degree? Maybe when we’re asleep, or involved in a self-actualizing activity (for me, when I’m drafting or on a long run; sometimes in yoga). There’s a sense in which we need ritual. We crave it at a physical level; we inhabit a universe that operates according to ritual: sun up, sun down; work, rest, play, work; summer, fall, winter, spring. There is joy in the rehearsal of the known, the familiar. Raising children is a great reminder of this: they thrive on routine, love tradition. And without ritual, there can be no mystery—how can the unexpected enter into a life that is devoid of expectation? Ritual opens the door for revelation. We move through ritual and performance to access the Divine. Yoga teaches this: when we know the poses—when they become habit, motor-memory—we can more quickly access the state of heightened awareness that is beyond the physical. The ecstasy. I find the same to be true with liturgy. The more I practice it—when it becomes part of the fabric of my being—the more quickly and completely I can move through it to approach the Divine.



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