The Years, Like The Oysters, Came By The Dozen
So, this is goodbye to TAC and TAC readers. I have had almost twelve years here, writing this blog. I cannot count the number of posts I've done. I can tell you that I've never taken a vacation from the blog, because I've taken my laptop everywhere I've gone, and blogged while on holiday. "How do you write so much?" people like to ask. The answer: because it's what I do. It really is as simple as that. I don't know how to do anything else.
When I started this blog in the summer of 2011, I had a sister, a father, a marriage, a dog, a sense of home, and a clear idea of what the rest of my life was going to look like. Over the past twelve years, I lost my sister, my father, my marriage, my dog, a sense of home, and any illusions I had about my future. Life comes at you fast. After my sister's death from cancer that September, my wife and I moved home to Louisiana to live close to family and put the kinds of things I believed in into practice. I wrote a big book about it all. It became a New York Times bestseller. Everything in it was true, and is true. But not, as I discovered, the whole truth. I've lost almost everything, and now live in a foreign country with my older son. I'll say this for Hungary: it's good to be in a place where people close to me are happy to have me. It's been a while since that was the case.
It's been a hard twelve years. But the less said about that, the better. God knows I've said enough already here.
Lots of good things happened over that time. I wrote three New York Times bestsellers, and established myself as a popular writer of books. I traveled a lot, and made good friends all around the world. I wrote important things on this blog, and I wrote stupid things (Primitive Root Wiener, anybody?). Interestingly to me, this blog is in part responsible for bringing more than a few people to Orthodox Christianity. I have never proselytized here, and have made a point not to, but you who wrote to tell me you had been chrismated, and to thank me for the role I played in their conversion, have all said that simply writing about what God did for me through Orthodoxy was enough. That has been deeply gratifying to me -- and instructive, too, because all the years I was a public Catholic, defending Catholicism in my writing and encouraging people in private to become Catholic, not a single person ever told me that my Catholic witness led them to Catholicism. This doesn't say anything about Catholicism or Orthodoxy, but it does say something about me, and maybe about effective witnessing today.
I wrote a thing that indirectly helped launch the political career of U.S. Senator J.D. Vance -- a good man who I fully hope and expect will be US president one day. I published hundreds of your Views From Your Table, and got to meet lots of you in my travels (including the VFYT maestro, James C., who is now a good friend). I helped start the Walker Percy Weekend, and met Franklin Evans, Jon Frazier, and other blog regulars who came in for the party. I introduced conservative Christians (including myself) to the great, all-American eccentric Charles W. Cosimano:
Behold, Uncle Chuckie and me, circa 2013, before my beard turned white:
I've been thinking this week about what it means to be a writer. I don't actually think much about writing. I just do it. But this week, I thought about how one of the most depressing times of my life was the year and a half in Philadelphia when I was not allowed to write publicly by my employer, for a reason that made no sense to me. I was like a runner with shackled legs. The thing is, I could have written during that time. Nobody was telling me I couldn't put words to paper just because I couldn't publish them online. I found, though, that I needed an audience. I really needed to be read by others. That surprised me. I don't like public speaking or public appearances, because I'm anxious in those moments. If I could write under a pseudonym, I would. But I need an audience, and I'm not really sure why. That's all to say that I've needed you all over these years. You have given me so much, even if you never commented. You gave me so much in a time when so much was being taken away. For most of the last decade, one answer to, "How do you write so much?" was "Because it allows me to escape the fact that my life is falling apart."
Better to be a blogger than a drunk or a drug addict, I think. I could be wrong. Depending on who you ask, I certainly am.
Anyway, thank you. Thank you for your readership, for your comments (except the haters -- nuts to you, ya freaks!), for your donations to TAC, and for your prayers (the number of you who have written over the years to tell me that you're interceding for me has been startling, and a blessing). I particularly want to express my gratitude to you who interacted with me on this blog on the posts that ultimately became The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming, How Dante Can Save Your Life, The Benedict Option, and Live Not By Lies. I also want to thank my TAC editors Dan McCarthy, Bob Merry, Johnny Burtka, and Emile Doak, and for all the staffers who have made it possible for me to have the best job a writer could hope for. I want to thank Howard and Roberta Ahmanson for their generous financial support of me at TAC for my run here.
I want to thank my (soon to be ex-) wife and our children for putting up with me over the years. It is hard to have a husband and a father who is a writer, especially one as obsessive about writing as I am. I probably owe them an apology more than an expression of gratitude. At least I can say I provided well for my family. That's not nothing. And I want to thank the folks at the Danube Institute, and in its orbit here in Budapest, for helping me find a place to wash ashore after shipwreck.
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Lord, this is starting to sound like an Oscar speech. Sorry. I have never been good at concision and brevity on this blog. I think I'll be contributing to TAC some in the future, and there are some other things cooking. My book on re-enchantment should be out sometime next year. And every weekday, I write about culture, politics, culture war, religion, and all manner of thing, at Rod Dreher's Diary, my subscriber-only Substack, which -- say it all together now -- costs only five dollars per month, or fifty dollars per year. Plus, you can comment to your heart's content there.
And with that, Ignatius Reilly, my spiritual master, and I kiss you goodbye. All you Mongoloids were the Primitive Root Wiener in my Lucky Dog, and I love you very much.