Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Review: Acedia and Me


I am a big fan of Kathleen Norris' writing. The name of this blog was inspired by her short book "Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and Women's Work." I loved Dakota, A Spiritual Geography; Amazing Grace; and The Cloister Walk. I've been eagerly anticipating her latest book, Acedia and Me : Marriage, Monks and a Writer's Life and finally got my copy a couple of weeks ago.

But...

Yes, there's a big but coming.

I did my best to read it, but finally gave up about page 200 and then skimmed through the rest. The book is a cross between an academic study of the spiritual phenomenon acedia and a personal grief journal written in the aftermath of the death of Norris' husband in 2003. I found it dense, wordy and lacking the engaging quality of her previous writings. Which is understandable, given the book's subject and the context in which it was written. Still. I just couldn't get into it.

Those of you who, like me, are die-hard Kathleen Norris fans will probably read it anyway and I would be interested to know your reaction to the book. Anyone who is interested in a very thorough dissertation on the subject of acedia and its relationship to clinical depression will want to have this in their library. I don't think it would be helpful to someone dealing with the recent death of a loved one, but I could be wrong.

I hope to be more enthused about her next book.

9 comments:

Joan Calvin said...

I was looking forward to it, having loved her earlier books. But, I got really bored reading a book essentially (as far as I got which wasn't very far) about boredom.

Quotidian Grace said...

Hah! You nailed it. It's difficult to make the subject interesting.

Gannet Girl said...

Well, you got it right on your second to last sentence.

As I commented elsewhere (maybe on JC's blog!) I bought it right away and started readng it a couple of weeks after our son died. Bad move. I did skim through to the end and I will go back, if only because people in my spiritual direction program loved it. But maybe not for awhile.

Maybe even Kathleen Norris does better where there is concrete geography involved, such as the plains of South Dakota or the interior of a monastery. Certainly all of her other books, with the exception of The Virgin of Bennington, were far more engaging.

Quotidian Grace said...

Thanks, GG. I had you in mind when I wrote that sentence. I should have known that an avid reader like you would already have looked at the book.

cheesehead said...

I haven't read it yet, but everybody I know who has has had a problem getting through it.

I think I'll pass, and re-read Dakota.

Rev Kim said...

I have it, but haven't read it yet. Now it will be hard to begin, reading these comments!

soul and culture said...

It's in my stack to read, but other fellow die-hard fans that I know had a similar reaction. Seeing as how grief plays a large part in it, I think I'll move it to the bottom of the stack. At least til after the holidays.

Rev Honey said...

I have it and have just begun reading it with my accountability group. I'll let you know how we do.

Ruby said...

I read it, found it difficult, but got to the end. I was surprised to find that I had taken a lot of notes while I was reading, mostly about the Desert Fathers. Kathleen Norris has a great mind and a wonderful command of the language, and parts of the book carried me along with the sheer power of her writing.
I agree with your assessment that this would not be helpful to someone in deep grief.