Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lazy Saturday/book review

I had the best intentions today of dusting and vacuuming the whole house. That didn't happen. I did manage to do my laundry, pay some bills online and return my two-weeks overdue library books. One of the books had a section falling out of it that was not falling out when I checked out the book. I felt horribly guilty about this and confessed to it at the checkout counter rather than just dropping the book in the bookdrop.

The now falling-apart book I read was called Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith by Kathleen Norris. From the Publisher's Weekly review:
When poet Norris (The Cloister Walk) found her way back into church in the early 1980s, she was unsettled by what she calls the "vaguely threatening and dauntingly abstract" vocabulary of the church. Many of the words, like "Christ," seemed to her code words churchgoers used out of convenience when they could not find other words to use. Other words?like "salvation," "conversion," and "dogma"?seemed to Norris to be too abstract to reflect meaningfully her own experience. In this "vocabulary of faith," Norris draws upon her considerable poetic skills to refashion the vocabulary of the church into her own religious vocabulary. In each of these meditations, Norris uses anecdotes and humor to invest these words with fresh meanings.
It's a fantastic idea for a book, though I think Norris is uneven in her execution of it. She sometimes follows through to perfection, and other times seems to miss the mark with chapters that seem way too short, offering anecdotes that seem too lightweight given the immense baggage attached to some of these words.

Still, I enjoyed the tone of this book versus one written by a clergy member or professor, in the way it combines academic knowledge with personal reflection. She often delves into Greek word origins and into the spirituality of Benedictine monks, with whom she has apparently spent a lot of time. Hmm, interesting. Norris also acknowledges doubt and her agnostic past, which I think is brave.

Yeah, it's really too bad that this book is so battered up for the next person.

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