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Austin Joseph App (1902-)

Austin App

"IT IS A HARD AND NICE THING FOR A MAN TO WRITE OF himself," said Cowley. Considering how much authorship has dominated my life, yet how little I have actually written, I feel embarrassed though flattered to have been invited to write about my books. As one who suffers from what Juvenal called "the incurable itch for writing," I console myself reflecting that anyone who feels the Lord's call to be a missionary among cannibals--is still more unfortunate! The worst thing about trying to be a writer is that one is always harried for time. It presses one to sacrifice everything, however pleasurable, which can no longer enrich one's knowledge or experience. I usually do not even read the daily papers, substituting for them the more-rewarding and less time-consuming news magazines. Though I could well wish to be married, I have never been able to adjust myself gracefully to the time-killing exigencies of courtship long enough to make it adequately reciprocal! Lucky the people who have the time and the will to do things just for the fun of it, but they are people not stricken with the fever to write-or act, or paint, or compose!

With the effort of writing so absorbing, the pay so meager and fickle, the hope of glory so unrealistic, only the passion for some cause or truth would seem to justify authorship. Some conscious ideas that have motivated my writings are:

( 1 ) that Christianity, especially Catholic Christianity, should be accepted all over the world as life's first and greatest blessing;

(2) that literature is the best engine for carrying the ideals of Christianity from the heads of men to their hearts;

(3) that profane and indecent speech, along with the greater sins of violence, immorality, and dishonesty, must be vigorously repressed;

(4) that world peace is God's reward for justice and that enforcing an unjust peace is a criminal responsibility;

(5) and that, to advance Christian ideals, good people must not only become informed but must also be trained to express themselves persuasively.

The very titles of my published books suggest these themes. Even to my doctoral dissertation, Lancelot in English Literature: His role and Character (1929), otherwise favorably reviewed, some "moralizing" is imputed. From 1929 to 1935, as instructor in English at the Catholic University, and from 1935 to 1942, as head of the department of English at the University of Scranton, I wrote and got published only three short stories, ten poems, but thirty eight articles, some digested in the Catholic Digest, and some hundred book reviews. While in the army (1942-43) and while administrative assistant in personnel with the Jaeger Machine Company, Columbus, Ohio, 1943-44, I wrote more poems, two stories, many articles and reviews. Most of the latter appeared anonymously in Best Sellers, The bi-monthly magazine which librarian Eugene P. Willging, Dr. Leonard Wolf and I, all then at the University of Scranton, started in 1941.

After I returned permanently to college teaching, during my professorship at the Incarnate Word College, San Antonio, Texas, from 1944 to 1948, three factors influenced my writing career. For the first time in my teaching life I was not burdened with extension courses so that I had more time. Secondly, the casual advice of one of my former professors, Dr. Peter Leo Johnson, St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee. His warning that "Article writing gets you nowhere; you must write books if you want to be recognized," shocked me into realizing that in the forties I was getting long on years fast but staying short on books. Thirdly, and most compellingly, I saw with horror that the Yalta and Potsdam pacts were delivering much of Christian Europe to the Bolshevists, who were looting, killing, and ravishing their way into Eastern Germany, Austria, and Hungary. With the approval of American leftists and Morgenthauists, the Communists and Partisans were expelling twelve million ethnic Germans from their ancient homelands, which "forced migration of millions of people," another former professor of mine, now Archbishop Aloisius J. Muench, called "the greatest crime of this age."

When even many Catholic magazines feared to publish the painful truth about Morgenthauism and the Potsdam peace, I felt forced, no matter what the cost, to publish myself. Beginning with a reprint from the Brooklyn Tablet entitled "Propaganda 'To Hate All Germans' Is Debunked" (Feb. 16, 1946) by an army officer, upon which as a lucky afterthought I set a price, "One copy, a stamp; ten, 25 cents," I wrote and published in the next five months: "Ravishing the Women of Conquered Europe"; "The Big Three Deportation Crime"; and "Slave-laboring German Prisoners of War." I was overwhelmed by the response. With one swoop my ivory-tower teaching status was ended. Morgenthauistic attacks, angry letters, thankyou and help-seeking letters literally by the thousands, and orders, also by the thousands, flooded into my apartment. In a matter of months several of the pamphlets were out of print at 30,000 copies; one went to 80,000 in English and was translated into four foreign languages.

In December, 1946, collecting some of my articles on war and peace from the Catholic World, Magnipcat, and Our Sunday Visitor, along with a Commencement Address at St. Mary's University and a few unpublished articles, I ventured on a small book, History's Most Terrifying Peace. By February a second printing was required. In 1950, Father E. J. Reichenberger's translation into German was published in Austria as Der Erschreckendste Friede der Geschichte. It was my first and so far my only book to appear in a foreign language.

ltus encouraged, and so as not to neglect my literature area too much, I collected some of my human interest articles previously published in the Catholic Home Journal, Magnipcat, Queen's Work, and The Victorian, as well as a Commencement Address at Incarnate Word College, and published them as my third book, Courtesy, Courtship and Marriage. This too was well reviewed and sold well. However it was a personal failure: I sent an autographed copy to a young woman I hopefully admired; and after some months she sent me an enthusiastic note, saying that she had applied the hints in my book and they worked-for she was now happily engaged to be married!

Forming the Mission Press in April, 1948, I published The True Concept of Literature, more ambitiously in a cloth and in a paper edition. This consists of some of my critical articles from the Catholic World, The Classical Bulletin, The Catholic Educational Review, College English, Magnifcat, and one long chapter on "How to Judge a Novel Artistically," which, with the republished one, "How to Judge a Novel Ethically," one reviewer, Father G. W. Hafford in the Salesianum, called "well worth the price of admission." I myself fondly believed The True Concept of Literature to be an enduring contribution towards fixing the nature, function, and proper place of literature.

Since my becoming associate professor of English at La Salle College, Philadelphia, in 1948, the Mission Press is the Boniface Press.

After a summer in Europe in 1949 and another in 1951, I published other pamphlets and many journalistic articles, some in German, on conditions in Central Europe. Since 1952 I write a weekly column entitled "Here and Abroad" for the Nord-Amerika, of Philadelphia.

My most unified and successful book so far has been Making Good Talk: How to Improve Your Conversation, published in 1950. It went into a second printing, became the choice of the Catholic Literary Foundation for November, 1950, and led to my election in 1951 to the Gallery of Living Catholic Authors. As a first grader, during a catechism class in St. James Parish, Mequon, Wisconsin, after I had labored through the story of Jesus being lost in the Temple, Father Anthony Bertram, my first pastor, while warmly complimenting me, added in an aside to the parents in back, that of course I was to be excused for employing too many ands. This comment made me conscious ever after of over-coordination and of other faults and virtues in speech. By and by I collected instances on 4x6 cards and in 9x12 folders, my custom with all topics that interest me. In 1948-49, upon Father Clement J. Lambert's preference, I contributed three articles on conversation to the Marianist. When I showed them to Mr. Aloysius Croft, an editor of Bruce, he said "Why not recast and expand these into a book." By June 15, 1949, the twelve-chapter book was written.

In general, nearly everything I write has kicked around a comparatively long time in my mind and in my files, but when I once start the actual writing the first draft proceeds fast, at the ratetf some two or three thousand words a day. The first draft, later carefully revised and shortened by thirty pages, of my latest book, Way to Creative Writing, was started on June 15,1953, and finished 330 typed pages later on August 14. This text on how to become a writer is the only one to date that includes specific chapters on each creative genre: poetry, essay, short story, plays, and novel.

Several other subjects have now been agitating my mind and accumulating in my files long enough to encourage my hope that a seventh book will soon be under way.


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