No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky— no feelings at all. But feelings— feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But then— this was awful!

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While at college, he dropped the "Frank" from his name. In later life, he was known to friends simply as "Van". She gave the baby girl, whom she called Marion, up for adoption but never forgot her.

After finishing school, she worked in New York City for a time before moving to Indianapolis to enter Butler University. Van and Davy soon fell deeply in love and made a vow they called the "Shining Barrier".

In brief, they promised to share everything in life, including all their interests, friends, and work, in order to tie themselves so closely together that nothing could ever separate them. Their devotion to this idea was so complete that they decided never to have children, as they felt that motherhood would be an experience which could not be shared equally.

Both were agnostics at this time. They apparently kept their secret for some years, as they are both listed as "single" in the census, and are living apart—Van with his parents in DeKalb County, and Davy in a boarding house in Indianapolis, where she is listed as working as a bank teller.

Shortly after, Van was called up for naval duty and stationed at Pearl Harbor. Davy joined him there some months later and took a job working with the navy. In , Vanauken took a teaching position at Lynchburg College. However, when postwar travel to Europe became possible again, he took a sabbatical and he and Davy moved to England so that he could study at Oxford University where he was awarded a BLitt in Eventually, Davy "crossed the room" to become a devout Anglican Christian herself; she had reexamined her life and views on the nature of sin after a thwarted attempt by a stranger to assault her.

Her conversion was also partly owing to the friendship and influence of C. Lewis , who was teaching at Oxford at the time. In the spirit of the "Shining Barrier", Van followed her, but with less conviction and even with some resentment. Upon their return to Lynchburg, Van continued teaching history and literature at Lynchburg College. They joined a local congregation and explored their faith further.

It was eventually to be tested severely. Davy contracted a virus which attacked her liver, possibly picked up during their years of travel. A great part of A Severe Mercy concerns how Van came to grips with losing his beloved wife with the help of his increasing faith and his correspondence with Lewis, who soon was to face the loss of his own terminally ill wife.

Vanauken later called the "Shining Barrier" he and Davy had created a "pagan love, invaded by Christ. The story of his search, their meeting, and how it affected his beliefs is related in The Little Lost Marion and Other Mercies, which was written shortly before his death.

In the s, he was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and a supporter of the feminist movement , although he eventually abandoned the latter in the belief that it had become too radical. The Oxford English Dictionary credits him as one of the earliest users of the word sexist, in the pamphlet "Freedom for Movement Girls Now", published by the Southern Student Organizing Committee a progressive student organization in the southern United States , wherein he was active during the s.

He is sometimes falsely claimed to have coined the word sexism , but in fact it was most likely coined by Pauline M. After his conversion to Catholicism, he was a contributing editor of the New Oxford Review and a frequent contributor to Crisis and Southern Partisan [24] magazines, as well as to other periodicals and newspapers. He expressed sympathy for the Confederacy in his book, The Glittering Illusion, although he was always critical of racism and slavery.

Sheldon Vanauken died of lung cancer on October 28, A movie version of A Severe Mercy was in development in by Origin Entertainment, who had optioned the film rights in late


A Severe Mercy: A Story of Faith, Tragedy and Triumph

At this point in my life I kind of hate it. The two met in the s and fell in love. They are inseparable, naming their schooner the Grey Goose, "for the grey goose, if its mate is killed flies on alone and never takes another. A walled garden. A fence around a young tree to keep the deer from nibbling it. An fortified place with the walls and watchtowers gleaming white like the cliffs of England. The Shining Barrier -- we called it so from the first -- protecting the green tree of our love.


Why I Hate Sheldon Vanauken's Book

To view it, click here. They were watching The End of the Affair, and Hugh was completely taken by the drama and was weeping. I had heard that A Severe Mercy was about a married couple, madly in love, and that thier faith and marriage are tested by the wife Davy converting to Christianity and therefore loving God more than her In Dress Your Family In Corduroy and Denim, David Sedaris tells of a time he was at a movie with his partner, Hugh. I had heard that A Severe Mercy was about a married couple, madly in love, and that thier faith and marriage are tested by the wife Davy converting to Christianity and therefore loving God more than her husband, and her subsequent illness and death. I personally did not find their initial love story endearing, I thought it stifling. They decide that they would spend all of their time together, and if one had interests that the other did not share, the uninterested party had to go along and take part anyway so that there would be no secrets.


Sheldon Vanauken


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