…a thoughtful, heartfelt examination of acedia, a kind of apathy, she explains, that monastic people have associated with sin…As she did in her bestseller The Cloister Walk, Norris seeks answers in theological and secular literature as well as in her own life. She delves into a wide-ranging body of work: ancient monastic texts, Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Aldous Huxley, William Styron, to name a few.
The Washington Post
Norris's magnificent spiritual memoir of acedia (a complex cousin of depression) gets an uneven audio treatment. At times, Norris's straightforward and monotonous delivery doesn't do justice to the aching beauty of her prose. However, there is a powerful simplicity to having Norris relate her own story, especially since even the most dramatic sequences-such as when her husband disappeared and planned to kill himself-are rendered without the overwrought Sturm und Drang that other narrators might attempt. Her performance is generally dispassionate, her most animated moments not when she is describing her own spiritual journey but when she incisively critiques the narcissism of American culture. The final disc contains a PDF of Norris's "commonplace book" of favorite quotations on acedia, ranging from early church sages like Anthony the Great and Norris's beloved Evagrius to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ian Fleming. A Riverhead hardcover (Reviews, June 9). (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Here, nationally best-selling poet Norris (Little Girls in Church) offers a difficult and intimate, almost naked look at the spiritual state of acedia that may be foreign to lay audiences. Though they may find parallels in their own relationships and/or careers as they listen to Norris probe her husband's and her own slide into this specialized relative of depression, it isn't an easy journey in audio format, as the book requires pauses for reflection and relistenings of certain sections to appreciate and grasp her concepts fully. Norris also uses this forum to address a spiritual void in our culture but ultimately suggests religious healing as the best antidote. Recommended for select audiences of scholars and philosophers. [Audio clip available through us.penguingroup.com; the Riverhead hc was recommended "for religious libraries," LJ9/1/08.-Ed.]
Memoir of a spiritual writer and poet who discovered relevance to her life and work in the longforgotten and difficult-to-define concept of acedia. When Norris (The Virgin of Bennington, 2001, etc.) first encountered the word "acedia" in the writings of a fourth-century monk, Evagrius Ponticus, she instantly recognized it as an apt description of her spiritual malaise. Here she struggles to pin down the meaning, naming its components as apathy, boredom, enervating despair, restlessness and the absence of caring. She also attempts, not entirely satisfactorily, to distinguish this spiritual state from the psychological state of depression, which her husband, fellow poet David Dwyer, experienced. She explores acedia's etymology and her personal history with it, sharing stories from her childhood, adolescence and long, crisis-plagued marriage. As a teenager, she responded by keeping busy, reading Kierkegaard's thoughts on despair and writing prodigiously. As a young adult, having lost the religious moorings of her upbringing, she found that John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress awakened in her a renewed sense of conscience. Years later, as she became her husband's full-time caregiver, acedia, which had never been totally absent from her spiritual life, renewed its grip on her, and with it, a temptation to doubt. Her attraction to monastic prayer and her strong interest in the monastic life-examined in her books Dakota (1993) and The Cloister Walk (1996)-is evident here in the numerous references to the writings of early monks and to conversations with Benedictines at the monastery near her home, where she is an oblate. In the final chapter, "Acedia: A Commonplace Book," Norris presentsdozens of quotations on the subject, demonstrating convincingly that soul weariness has been a persistent and troubling phenomenon throughout recorded history. Surprisingly frank and moving.