"Whoever does not affirm at some time the definite..terribleness of life, never takes possession of the unutterable powers of our existence; he merely walks at the edge; and when the decision is made eventually, he will have been neither one of the living nor one of the dead."
I know many Catholics who reject modern Literature almost out of hand. Why is that? What is it about modern writers that offends us? There is pretension enough throughout literary history, there is despair and darkness in writers of all eras, Godlessness and hedonism abound in some of our most treasured classics, so why do we reject the moderns specifically? Why do Joyce, Hemingway, Camus, and their many proteges offend us. Among many Catholics, the favorite authors are either decidedly pre-modern or else some of the few 20th century writers who wrote in pursuit of a premodern world.
I get the impression that it feels safer in another time, we escape our own era into a world that can be easily romanticized: boxed away to be revisited in the safety of imagination. In this world, Beauty is always pretty, like a Bouguereau painting - bland perfection of form with non of realities wrinkles or scars. It becomes harder and harder to see beauty in the darker aspects of life - in old mills decaying along the river, in old men alone in discontent, in blood and death and crucifixion.
I think of St. Catherine of Sienna, to whom Christ gave his circumcised foreskin as a wedding ring, or of the tales of Hosts turning to bloody meat in the mouths of saints - allowing them to taste the intimacy of devouring the Man, Christ. The pretty images of 19th century holy cards and Bouguereau Madonnas can't begin to touch this beauty, but many of the moderns, for all their restless despair, have a feel for the darker side of beauty; rejecting them, we reject the opportunity to let that beauty raise us up.
Sometimes stagnation seems attractive, comfortable. Going back again and again to the pretty things that give pretty feelings is easy and enjoyable, but there is beauty in the modern world that has been called out and studied by our modern writers. Its true that it is often a dark beauty, one that reflects our own move away from nature. It can be a frightening read, but it is our world, if it has "terrors they are our terrors; .. are dangers at hand, we must try to love them." (Rilke)