Austin Joseph App (1902-)
"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
(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,
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
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