Byline: Gerald J. Russello, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy are the most influential Catholic writers in America of the last century. They each found in Catholicism the intellectual resources to face the challenges of the modern world. They have also become modern examples of religious pilgrims. Cottage industries, complete with scholars, literary societies, dissertations and conferences, have sprung up around each. Writing a biography of only one of them would be a daunting task: Tackling all four of them in the same volume would appear foolhardy.
Yet that is what Paul Elie has attempted in "The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage," his important new book, and he does so admirably well.
Mr. Elie, a senior editor at publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux, expertly traces the lives of these four figures and charts their literary and religious journeys across the backdrop of the turbulent "American century." In doing so, Mr. Elie helps to explain why these four authors continue to speak to us. His literary criticism is deft and understanding, but …