Joshua Hren’s New Novel Draws Comparisons to Dostoevsky and Bernanos
[Joshua Hren] …has “written not just a brilliant novel but, in the truest sense, a divine comedy.” —John-Paul Heil, Los Angeles Review of Books
Joshua Hren, Ph.D, co-founder of the Catholic MFA program in creative writing at the University of St. Thomas-Houston and founder and editor-in-chief of Wiseblood Books, has titled his acclaimed new novel “Infinite Regress.” The work is stirring reviewers and readers on multiple levels as a compelling and profoundly relatable story (it’s us, or we know someone or we’ve seen the news) dealing with “everyday evils that surround us” and reflecting an underlying reality or truth. Hren’s latest work is drawing comparisons to Dostoevsky and Bernanos.
Read the Description
A provocative description of “Infinite Regress” follows: “In the years since his graduation from St. Marquis University, Blake Yourrick has fled his family and Milwaukee, rotating from job to dead-end job—working the Bakken oilfields in Dakota and even signing on as the night caretaker of a rural abbey graveyard. Deep in student debt and estranged from his misanthropic, alcoholic father, Blake is haunted by the memory of his mother’s death—and by his relationship with his college mentor, a defrocked priest named Theo Hape, who is known for his adventurous theological ideas as well as for the uncanny, seductive power he wields over his students. When Hape, learning of his former charge’s desperate straits, proposes a perverse exchange of services, Blake finds himself tempted to test the professor’s radical theories in real life. What follows is a metaphysical duel reminiscent of the novels of Dostoevsky and Bernanos, pitting a modern-day anti-Christ against a reckless but resilient young man and his well-meaning, dysfunctional kin.”
The Good Catastrophe
One reviewer noted that Hren is “grappling with the phenomenon of eucatastrophe. This concept, developed by J.R.R. Tolkien in his 1939 essay ‘On Fairy-Stories’ and central to his literary philosophy, is ‘the joy of the happy ending […] the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous turn’ at the end of fairy tales, which is not essentially escapist, nor fugitive but rather a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur.”
About the Writer and UST's MFA Program
Hren is a writer’s writer, consistently following his passion. He penned his first long-form work as a boy. “I wrote my first novel in fourth grade; a 96-page shameless imitation of Tolkien’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’—surely the best thing I’ve ever done, lost to posterity due to … spilled milk.”
Not long before releasing “Infinite Regress,” he co-founded UST’s MFA program with James Matthew Wilson. Hren said, “The program is deeply rooted in the Catholic literary and intellectual tradition, devoted to the best developments of the art and craft and oriented toward the perfection of these natural gains by grace.”
“I have been amazed by our Lord’s superabundance,” Hren said. “As of the start of our second year, we have over 50 students happily sharing our pursuit toward new literature that goes beyond the sincere and moving exploration of doubt. We need new literature that makes attractive what we ought to worship even as it helps us ‘locate’ ourselves amidst the continuum that swings from self-deceit to wisdom.”
More Novels on the Way
Having written his share of scholarly articles over the years, the professor-writer-publisher-husband-father has turned his talents to Catholic fiction.
“Now that I’m over 40 and likely, at best, midway through this life, the question of what’s worth leaving behind is burning like a firecracker in my soul,” he said. “With what gifts God has given me, trying to complete a novel or two more seems like the right route to avoid being on the bad side of the parable of buried talents.”
Hren describes himself as “ankle deep into another novel.”