Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

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An award–winning writer delivers a major reckoning with religion, place, and sexuality in the aftermath of 9/11

Hailed in The Washington Post as “one of the most eloquent and probing public intellectuals in America,” Richard Rodriguez now considers religious violence worldwide, growing public atheism in the West, and his own mortality.

Rodriguez’s stylish new memoir—the first book in a decade from the Pulitzer Prize finalist—moves from ...

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Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

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An award–winning writer delivers a major reckoning with religion, place, and sexuality in the aftermath of 9/11

Hailed in The Washington Post as “one of the most eloquent and probing public intellectuals in America,” Richard Rodriguez now considers religious violence worldwide, growing public atheism in the West, and his own mortality.

Rodriguez’s stylish new memoir—the first book in a decade from the Pulitzer Prize finalist—moves from Jerusalem to Silicon Valley, from Moses to Liberace, from Lance Armstrong to Mother Teresa. Rodriguez is a homosexual who writes with love of the religions of the desert that exclude him. He is a passionate, unorthodox Christian who is always mindful of his relationship to Judaism and Islam because of a shared belief in the God who revealed himself within an ecology of emptiness. And at the center of this book is a consideration of women—their importance to Rodriguez’s spiritual formation and their centrality to the future of the desert religions.

Only a mind as elastic and refined as Rodriguez’s could bind these threads together into this wonderfully complex tapestry.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Leslie Jamison
Darling is less the biography of any single idea—or an account of any single spiritual journey—and more the biography of many intersecting ideas: the relationship between gay rights and women's rights; the relationship between unforgiving landscapes and enduring faith, between cities and their scribes; between a homosexual man and his church. These ideas play out across a wide variety of historical theaters: the tangled legacy of Cesar Chavez, the lost heyday of city newspapers…the relentless glow of the Vegas strip and the endless traffic jams on California freeways, that Sigalert proof that too many folks showed up for the same dream.
Publishers Weekly
Rodriguez (Hunger of Memory) wrote so many well-received essays on the American religious climate after 9/11, often in the context of his own struggle in faith, that he turned them into a book-length narrative about his Roman Catholic formation during the past decade. His pilgrimage begins with "the realization that the God I worship is... the same desert God the terrorists prayed ," meanders through ruminations on "small wounds" in a meditation that involves Lance Armstrong and Sheryl Crow, and comes to a slow finish with a smile from Christopher Hitchens and a brief tribute to Mother Teresa. Much like his writing, Rodriguez has been all over the place, traveling, thinking, observing. By the end of his book, he leaves the reader feeling like it all fits together, as if all his essays give "a sense—no, not a sense, a reason—why everyone matters." And more importantly, Rodriguez doesn't beat this discovery over the reader's head but unpacks it gently, over the course of years, in seemingly disjointed stories that explain one writer's journey to a God of many. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Literary Agency. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Darling

“A rich tapestry, a Persian carpet of a book….The deep pleasures of [Darling] defy the usual capsule account.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Over thirty years now, [Richard Rodriguez] has maintained a fierce, rigorous, ironic, and sincere cross-examination of both contemporary America and himself....[His] refusal to settle for easy answers or fixed assumptions is exactly what makes Rodriguez so essential.”—Pico Iyer, New York Review of Books

“Richard Rodriguez may be the most empathic essayist in America….His sentences are reliable joys: liquid and casual, they slip in and out of philosophy and anecdote noiselessly, like people padding through an empty chapel, expecting to hear nothing more than the sound of their own passage.”—Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker

“The phenomenal writing carries the day….A deeply humanistic voice.”—The Boston Globe

“Rodriguez continues to find meaning in both the desert and the idea of paradise, and while his wide-ranging, erudite, passionate, and thought-provoking essays range over a wealth of seemingly disparate topics, they all reflect his remarkable ability to penetrate the contradictions of our lives, reveling in them as much as understanding them.”—Booklist

“[Rodriguez] is, quite simply, one of the finest prose stylists now writing in English. These essays are discursive gems; there is a subtle musicality to each sentence that adds to his sophisticated and compassionate vision.”—Shelf Awareness

“[Rodriguez’s] charming, associative prose is reminiscent of James Baldwin…Darling is a revelation.”—Financial Times

“An eccentric mélange of a book….Under Rodriguez’ guidance…all the pieces are connected slowly until the project as a whole reveals itself. It’s as if you’ve been wandering for miles in a desert and, suddenly, your salvation appears.”—NPR.org

“The ten essays of this ‘spiritual autobiography’ are beautiful examples of thinking something through with not just intelligence and verve but wholeheartedness and compassion....[Rodriguez] is among the very best essayists of his generation....These magnificent ‘personal-classical’ essays will be read and enjoyed for many decades to come, darling.”—The Washington Post

“[Richard Rodriguez’s] doubt-season Catholic belief reveals the time he inhabits as out of joint, freeing him from what Chesterton called ‘the degrading slavery of being a child of his age.’ He’s as free as suicide bomber, this master of the literary essay.”—Commonweal

“It would not be a stretch to call Rodriguez our greatest living essayist….He is an inward writer who is always looking out toward issues of race, spirituality, sexuality, and heritage.”—David Gessner, Ecotone

“With compassion and profundity of vision, Rodriguez offers a compelling view of modern spirituality that is as multifaceted as it is provocative.”—Kirkus (starred review)

“Engaging and readable, this highly personal and candid discovery…will delight Rodriguez’s fans.”—Library Journal (starred review)

Darling is a remarkable collection, one that will no doubt strengthen Rodriguez’s reputation as being one of America’s finest essayists.”—The El Paso Times

Darling links its illumination of the ‘desert God’ of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam…to a more personal history…but its inquiries range much further than personal experience.”—Leslie Jamison, The New York Times Book Review

“[Richard Rodriguez] is, as always, a biographer of ideas, of the conflicted histories carried in our flesh....What he does, patiently, artfully, is make an honest confession, describing the contours of his faith without apology.”—Image

“For some readers, ‘delighting with complexity’ may seem a conundrum. It can be a valid experience as anyone familiar with Rodriguez’s lucid writing will attest. Further, analyzing complexity—as a topic from a literary perspective—does not mean writing to confuse; it means opening up a complicated issue with clarity.”—The Buffalo News

Praise for Brown: The Last Discovery of America

“It may be a while yet before America is as comfortable with the ambiguities of its complexion as Rodriguez is. In the meantime, he injects some desperately needed complexity into America’s thorniest debate.”—Mother Jones
“The recurrent strands of [Rodriguez’s] though—family, religion, education, race, sex, California, America, Mexico—gain new resonance each time and stand, in the end, for the complexity of a whole greater than the sum of its parts.”—The New York Times Book Review

Praise for Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father

“Days of Obligation looks into America—north and south of the Rio Grande—as penetratingly and eloquently as Camus did when he compared the mental landscapes of France and Algiers.”—David Lohrey, The Los Angeles Times Book Review

“It is like nothing I have ever read before, and the sheer dazzle of its suggestions says more about America than anything I have read since Lawrence.”—Pico Iyer, author of Falling Off the Map

Library Journal
Rodriguez (editor, Pacific News Svc.) has long been something of a darling among readers for his memoirs Hunger of Memory and Days of Obligation, books that touch with unusual eloquence on his rich experience of his Mexican heritage, his sexuality, and his negotiations with politics and culture. This latest work, stemming from a piece he wrote for Harper's in 2008, is about his difficult confrontation with both God and the experience of emptiness; Lance Armstrong, Mother Teresa, and others make appearances as well. VERDICT Engaging and readable, this highly personal and candid discovery of the fullness of God in the silence of life's deserts may not offer anything new to spiritual seekers but will delight Rodriguez's fans.
Kirkus Reviews
★ 2013-09-01
An acclaimed gay intellectual and journalist's musings on the state of and interrelationship among Christianity, Judaism and Islam in the post-9/11 digital age. In this collection of essays, Rodriguez stylishly delves into the meaning of life, death, sexuality and the printed word in the 21st century by examining his own Christian faith. The events of 9/11 awakened him to the fact that the God he worshipped as a Catholic was "the same desert God [to which] the terrorists prayed." He went to Jerusalem to experience the "ecology" of the place that gave rise to not only Christianity, but also Judaism and Islam. In the emptiness of the desert, the printed word came to have sacred status for all three religions. What partially distinguished them were notions of paradise. "For Jews," he writes, "Eden was pre-desert [and] [f]or Christians and Muslims, paradise…[was] post-desert." Rodriguez transforms his insights into lenses through which he views not only himself and the gay community to which he belongs, but also American culture. A friend's Easter Sunday death from AIDS in the Las Vegas desert becomes an occasion to ponder the campy neon paradise the city represents. A beloved female friend he refers to only as "Darling" becomes the focal point for witty meditations on how Rodriguez's own place as a homosexual in both the church and society depends on female empowerment, or lack thereof. The death of newspapers becomes a way for the author to reflect on the rise of technology. In this new "enlarging, unstable [and] ethereal" world, the former weightiness of words has been replaced by a disturbing relativism. Like newspapers, sacred texts such as the Bible, Torah and Quran become little more than objects stripped of meaning. With compassion and profundity of vision, Rodriguez offers a compelling view of modern spirituality that is as multifaceted as it is provocative.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670025305
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 10/3/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 682,850
  • Product dimensions: 5.86 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Rodriguez is the author of Hunger of Memory, Brown, and Days of Obligation. He is a fellow of New America Media. He was a long-time contributor to PBS and continues to write for Harper's Magazine and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in San Francisco.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 17, 2013

    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully Written & Insightful Spiritual Memoir Rodriguez

    Beautifully Written & Insightful Spiritual Memoir

    Rodriguez has proven himself, once again, as one of America’s most insightful essayist on religion, spirituality, and the human existence. His poetic prose is remarkably engaging, gliding imperceptibly from philosophy to anecdote. Similarly, his vision is at once moving and provocative, and the content strongly resonates with the modern religious climate and paradoxes of faith. Darling serves as further evidence that Rodriguez is a master at his craft and has an abundance to offer in the spiritual realm as well. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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