Yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day, and I may as well tell you now that this post was written well before those festivities. I’m usually a very last minute blogger, but when Paddy’s Day* falls on a Saturday, no self-respecting Irish person would allow something as routine as routine to interfere with the general madness.
There’s always a big build-up to a long weekend with a Paddy’s Day in it, so I’ve been spending much of the past week thinking about patron saints. There’s one for everyone in the audience, it seems, unless perhaps you’re looking for a patron saint of bowel movements, or perhaps a patron saint of poor internet connections.
Because there isn’t a patron saint of poor internet connections that I know of. I suppose you could combine the patron saint of lost things, and the patron saint of spontaneous outbursts of rage, but it wouldn’t really be the same.
Writers, on the other hand, do have a patron saint. His name is Francis de Sales, and he was a bishop of Geneva back in the early 1600s.
Unfortunately for writers, he’s a crappy patron saint. A didactic buzz-killer who, according to Dan Piepenbring in the Paris Review, was mainly famous for writing what might have been the first self-help book, and telling people that dancing would open their pores to sin. (He did some cool stuff in relation to deaf people, but that would ruin my argument here, so I’m obviously not even going to mention that.)
I’m flabbergasted that writers – historical guardians of the world’s imagination – could have allowed themselves to be saddled with the world’s most boring patron saint. Not a stigma in sight, nor even a violent untimely death.
Ireland was absolutely bursting with saints who had the sort of violent untimely death which fuels a thousand stories. If only the writer’s guild had approached us all those centuries ago, we could have packaged one up and handed him or her over without even a mention of the long-term tax implications.
Having said that, Francis de Sales is also the patron saint of journalists, which seems like a fairly lazy move on the part of the Pope who proclaimed him. It’s like picking teams at school and being down to the last two lousy kids, and sending both in one go onto the team which looks least likely to win.
With this in mind, I’d like to petition the current Pope for a new patron saint of writers. The journos can keep Francis de Sales; they have enough on their hands these days anyway, so I doubt they’ll mind too much.
And now to practical matters. Who would be the most suitable candidate?
For starters, all the best saints died young and in horrible circumstances. So I think the new patron saint of writers should have died a bloody death before they hit the ripe old age of 30, and definitely before they got published.
They should also have endured some vague torture along the way – perhaps a submission round or something of that ilk – having written the book to end all books, only for it to languish on the slush piles unloved by all, until an intern called Barry picked it up, thinking it was another tense domestic thriller with a girl in it, and thus finding himself pleasantly surprised to discover it was actually an original satirical masterpiece about a half-dog, quarter-lizard. However, the path to sainthood never did run smooth, and therefore Barry should also have been fired for photocopying infringements before he could tell anyone about it.
Or something like that.
And don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about the miracle end of things. Every saint must have performed a miracle, so I would suggest that our patron saint be one who convinced a one-star reviewer who hadn’t even read their book to recant. That ought to do fine.
Anyway, this is all grand, but there is a bigger stumbling block for finding our own patron saint: someone has to petition the Pope about it. I feel I must leave that up to one of you who has a direct line to the Vatican, or who at least might feel like this is something they can get done by next January 24th, when Francis de Sales has his next lame day. After all, a writer’s got to have a deadline.
In the meantime, I’m off. I have some Shamrockery to attend to. Paddy’s Day is nothing without a completely fake vision of Irishness – just ask any Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) found traipsing around Washington at this time of year – or St. Patrick himself (seeing as the poor unfortunate was actually Welsh).
* You know what I’m going to say. Paddy’s, people. NOT PATTY’S. To utter the blasphemous travesty that is ‘Patty’s Day’ is an insult to all Irish people and any and all of our beloved American cousins caught using it will be de-greened, pelted with potatoes, and barred from using any words again ever.