MONDAY

Among Catholic artists, there’s a deeply shared language. The rest of us see through a glass darkly—however much the occasional flash of common human spirit jolts us. Paul Elie’s The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage shows four believers and creators toting their faith and works on their journeys, and sometimes meeting each other on the road. Walker Percy exults in the visit of a fellow Catholic: “I was amazed at the number of intellectuals who admired [Thomas] Merton and who could not tolerate the idea that he could be an observing Trappist monk for twenty years.” The prosaic reformer Dorothy Day and the lyrical wordsmith Merton kept up an avid correspondence in which they argued about the Vietnam-era peace movement. And Merton eulogized Flannery O’Connor, says Elie, “as if she were the younger sister he had been too busy to get to know.” Others pass through Elie’s chronicle as well: the doomed Southern Catholic writer John Kennedy Toole—who killed himself, some say, on the way to O’Connor’s home—and O’Connor fan and correspondent Elizabeth Hester, an eventual Catholic convert for whom O’Connor crafted some of her finest writing, both witnessing and confessing: “[M]y virtues are as timid as my vices…If I hadn’t had the Church…I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now.” Learn more about Percy, Merton, O’Connor, and Day—a sort of four horsemen of literary revelation—when Elie reads at 7 p.m. Monday, May 17, at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 364-1919. (Pamela Murray Winters)