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Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography Hardcover – October 3, 2013

4 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Paradox has always been at the heart of Rodriguez’s brilliant personal essays, whether he was pondering, in Hunger of Memory (1982), the conflict between public and private selves; or defining, in Days of Obligation (1992), the split in his multicultural soul between his American faith in the future and his Mexican sense of the tragic past; or dissecting, in Brown (2002), the incendiary topic of race in America, “in hopes of undermining the notion of race of America.” In Brown, Rodriguez described himself as a “Queer Catholic Indian Spaniard in a temperate Chinese city in a fading blond state in a post-Protestant nation.” Now he digs still deeper into all those contradictions, examining his continuing belief in God and in the Catholic Church in the context of his life as a gay man in the early years of the twenty-first century, years, he says, that have been defined by religious extremism, rising public atheism, and what he calls “digital distraction.” And, yet, in the wake of September 11, Rodriguez found himself searching for commonality rather than difference between the “religions of the desert” and traveling to Jerusalem, “the corrupt model of the eventual City of God,” to find in the “uninhabitability of the desert” the shared heritage that leads Jews, Christians, and Muslims to seek another place, a green paradise. 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 (gay marriage, Las Vegas, women, California, newspapers, technology), they all reflect his remarkable ability to penetrate the contradictions of our lives, reveling in them as much as understanding them. “We gather,” he says of his congregation, “in belief of one big thing: that we matter, somehow.” --Bill Ott

Review

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
 
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 235 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; 1st edition (October 3, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025305
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Martin J. Plax on October 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Anyone who has read Brown: The Last Discovery of America already knows that Richard Rodriguez is as iconoclastic a writer as exists today. In Darling, they will be treated to a Homeric and Joycean study of a sojourner trying to keep his faith in God in the face of the assault on the United States commonly designated as "9/11." Both in form and content, he exposes us to the disassembled and uncertain world that everyone faces now, and by revealing his own effort to find unity and certainty, he has written what might be the autobiography of everyone in the postmodern world.

At the same time that he has revealed to us his continued quest for certitude in the face of disappointment Rodriguez has written a quiet polemic that challenges those who, in the face of tragedy, and armed with modern science, has lost faith in the God who has revealed Himself in the three Abrahamic religions. In this sense, Darling is an affirmation of his faith as a believing and practicing Catholic as he has experienced his Church going through its sometimes public, sometimes private changes, such as a language of the Mass.

But perhaps the book's greatest brilliance lies in the fact that Rodriguez is a supreme ironist, starting with the title of the book. Sprinkled throughout the ten chapters are comments that expose his reader to the ironies of their own existence as physical beings and as spiritual beings.

Darling is a book that readers in search of wholeness in this fragmented world will want to read more than once. It is a daring book, one that expands the meaning of "autobiography" to something beyond a chronicle of things past. Rodriguez has written a book that is poetry, philosophy, and history all in one package. But even more daring, Rodriguez has written a book that is meant for everyone and no one - a powerful answer to Nietzsche's assertion that God is Dead.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Darling" was the first book I ever pre-ordered. When it finally arrived I devoured it immediately. I have an appetite these days particularly for non-fiction essays by what are sometimes called "public intellectuals," but of the kind who represent themselves whole in their writing as people of feeling, people interested in where they (and we) come from and where we may be going. In a fractionalized world I value integrated representations by integrated people. And I am drawn to those who are particularly good, incisive writers. Thus

Eduardo Galeano
Clive James

are on my list of favorites. But for particularly American perspectives, since I am American (North American, I should specify, nod to Mr. Galeano), some are even more valued:

Rebecca Solnit
William Irwin Thompson
Richard Rodriguez

It may be that Solnit's best work ever is the first thing I read of hers, "River of Shadows," an award-winning meditation on Edweard Muybridge, historical California, technological innovation in the 19th century and what, as a result, we have become. Moreover, it may be that Thompson's major writings are behind him, since I haven't read much of substance from him lately, even though I make periiodic pilgrimages to his shared website, Wild River Review.

But of Rodriguez, "Darling" is here, and may be his best collection ever. I've read his wonderfully crafted, often elegaic essays ever since "Hunger of Memory," and have waited for the next collection to appear, then the next. Human nature being what it is, my expectations have constantly risen, but so have his resources as an intellect and writer.
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Format: Kindle Edition
A master of language, reason, and faith, Richard Rodriguez again brings me to a place few writers can: sheer awe for his craft and his brilliant mind. As a Catholic myself who is not in spiritual crisis, but in religious foundation crisis, I take much from his teachings, expertise, and experience. A welcome read for anyone interested in being lifted by a fellow voyager.
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Every page of this wonderful book leads in many directions, diversity and ambivalence and belief. We see our world through the conflicted eyes of a man who embodies in many ways all that America is at the turn of the 21st century. I am reminded of Hawthorne’s recommendation of Thoreau’s Walden when asked to come up with a great American book. He called it odd and idiosyncratic but an expression that is uniquely American. So with this.
I kept thinking, as I read, of an image from an earlier Rodriquez book, Days of Obligation, in which he pictures himself shifting his “tailbone upon the cold hard pew.” He is still shifting, torn between the secular and the sacred, the world and the spirit, looking for the overlap. He embodies the complex diversity of his nation, Hispanic, gay, intellectual, Catholic, looking both Aztec and Arab. I kept seeing his big brown buttocks shifting on that hard cold pew.
The contradiction of God in the wilderness comes up again and again, Divinity in emptiness, the Fear of God over the Presence, “the desert god demands acknowledgement within emptiness.” The old Neo-orthodox theologians like Reinhold Niebuhr loved to talk of paradox. Here they find it in abundance. He sees all sides: “The danger of weighted knowledge is literalism; the danger of weightless knowledge is relativism.” … “I want Malt and Milton.” .. “It is because the Church needs women that I depend upon women to protect the church from its impulse to cleanse itself of me.” The rich California techie who imagines a realm totally free, abstract, out there still “has to live in a real body, in real space, and in real time.
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