John L'Heureux Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

John L’Heureux began his literary career by publishing four volumes of poetry, written while he was a Jesuit. His autobiographical memoir, Picnic in Babylon: A Jesuit Priest’s Journal, 1963-67 (1967), chronicles and analyzes the years of theological study leading to his ordination as a priest. Since leaving the Jesuits in 1971, he has written several novels. The first two, Tight White Collar (1972) and The Clang Birds (1972), grew out of his experiences in religious life, whereas his later novels, especially An Honorable Profession (1991) and The Handmaid of Desire (1996), spring from his career in teaching.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Editors of The Best American Short Stories and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards have selected several of John L’Heureux’s stories for inclusion in their annuals. He received creative writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981 and 1986. At Stanford University he won the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1983 and again in 1998.


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Colby, Vineta, ed. World Authors, 1985-1990. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1995. The article on L’Heureux begins with a helpful interview with the writer, who reflects on his life and writings, and includes a short biography and a long analysis of his poetry, short fiction, and novels. Also included are a list of his principal publications and a selection of articles about him.

Farrell, Michael J. “L’Heureux’s People Perplexed by Ironic God.” National Catholic Reporter 27 (May 11, 1990): 21, 30. Using the publication of Comedians as a pretext to explore the author’s fiction about priests, Farrell analyzes L’Heureux’s Catholic background and the effect that this has had on his short stories and novels. The article is also enlivened by material gathered in an interview with L’Heureux.

Johnson, Greg. “Jokers Are Wild.” The Georgia Review 44 (Winter, 1990): 713-722. In this essay review Johnson discusses five American writers who have linked humor with hostility in their critiques of modern life. He sees Flannery O’Connor and Iris Murdoch as influencing L’Heureux’s fictional methods, which he incisively uses to probe the spiritual realities behind his characters’ moral dilemmas.

Stefano, Frances. “Comedians by John L’Heureux.” Theology Today 47 (Fall, 1990): 319-324. Stefano analyzes the stories in L’Heureux’s last collection from a theological perspective. She sees them as being ultimately about the light of God’s grace becoming visible in a dark world of apparent randomness and waste. Though she finds L’Heureux’s stories contrived and not as convincing as those of Flannery O’Connor, she is nonetheless enthralled by his overdrawn characters, whose actions are “comically, sometimes terrifyingly, true to the strangeness of life.”