The New York Times
A Book of Silenceby Sara Maitland
In her late forties, after a noisy upbringing as one of six children and adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland found herself living alone in the country and, to her surprise, falling in love with silence. In this fascinating, intelligent, and beautifully written book, Maitland describes how she set out to explore this new love, spending periods of
In her late forties, after a noisy upbringing as one of six children and adulthood as a vocal feminist and mother, Sara Maitland found herself living alone in the country and, to her surprise, falling in love with silence. In this fascinating, intelligent, and beautifully written book, Maitland describes how she set out to explore this new love, spending periods of silence in the Sinai desert, the Scottish hills, and a remote cottage on the Isle of Skye.
Maitland delves deep into the rich cultural history of silence, exploring its significance in fairy tale and myth, its importance to the Western and Eastern religious traditions, and its use in psychoanalysis and artistic expression.
Her story culminates in her building a hermitage on an isolated moor in Galloway, and as she guides readers through experiences of silence in this new home, she evokes a sense of peace that includes the reader in its intimate tranquility.
The New York Times
- Counterpoint Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)
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A writer recounts her explorations into the nature of silence and the conflict between the social and inner worlds for those trying to add more silence to their lives. Maitland doesn't hold back. In tones that alternate between bravery and stubbornness, she questions her own motives in retiring from a large part of the social world. She also demonstrates reasonable objectivity when detailing the benefits and possible dangers of a life spent in silence. I would warn potential readers that Maitland is a lover of primary and secondary sources. She's a scholar as well as a writer. The historical and philosophical discussion can get dense, even turgid in spots. Chapter four, Silence and the Gods, is especially challenging in this respect. And chapter six, Desert Hermits, required a real effort to absorb. I'm incapable of ignoring a footnote, so I spent a lot of time flipping to the back of the book. A BOOK OF SILENCE is a fascinating look at the contemplative life by a woman who struggles to put her ideals into practice in a society that doesn't particularly value introspection. It isn't an easy read, but it is a worthwhile one.
A slender volume - but deep in the literary engagement with the possibility of solitude and contemplation in a world made hectic and busy by globalization and 24/7 technologies. The book made me want to travel to Isle of Skye and seek the landscape that would offer the intensity of reflection - and inner dialogue. This is a needed work - a piece of literature - as antidote to the hurry sickness and march step to the grave.
Page 221 contains information about 'six visible planets within a perfect eight-note scale' that were noted by men of antiquity. The eight-note scale includes the sun and moon. But the fact is, the ancients knew of only five planets, and those five planets plus the sun and moon were ordered into what we now use as a seven day week. Her entire discourse on the matter is bogus. That pretty well ruins the effect of her other research.