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Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 16, 2008
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Top Customer Reviews
Norris herself wrote the bestsellers THE CLOISTER WALK, and AMAZING GRACE. She also remained married to the same man, David J. Dwyer, until his death in 2003. So, Casey's definition of an acediac as someone who would leave creativity to others and who is without commitment seems too stringent to apply to her. Yet, Norris has written ACEDIA & ME because she recognizes in herself a stubborn tendency to sink into lethargy, boredom, detachment, apathy, and other facets of acedia. In a sense, this book is a form of therapy for her as she considers the subject from many perspectives. She consults the works of desert monks Anthony the Great and Evagrius. She compares and contrasts acedia and clinical depression and analyzes the psychological and psychiatric approaches to these related but not selfsame states of being.Read more ›
The author tells the story of her marriage, of her husband's illness and death. Each chapter is a meditation, an essay on the author's search for clarity and meaning.
Kathleen Norris is also the author of AMAZING GRACE: A VOCABULARY OF FAITH. She is at her best when defining concepts, especially religious concepts. In ACEDIA & ME: A MARRIAGE, MONKS, AND A WRITER'S LIFE, she concentrates on the concept of acedia and you will be supprised to learn how common it is. She looks at acedia as experienced, then as observed.
Of course the author discusses Andrew Solomon's excellent study, THE NOONDAY DEMON, but she says that it is common to experience acedia without being clinically depressed. There are degrees of it, she says, respectable acedia and industrial acedia.
The last section of the book is devoted to quotes touching on acedia from the wealth of our literature, Thomas Merton, Saul Bellow, Joan Didion, Ian Fleming, Walker Percy, and many, many others. I read every one of them and looked up from the book struck anew by the significance of the the author's theme.
Those interested in reading more about intellectual acedia might want to start with Colin Wilson's THE OUTSIDER; those looking to read more on spiritual acedia might enjoy David Loy's take on it in LACK AND TRANSCENDENCE: THE PROBLEM OF DEATH AND LIFE IN PSYCHOTHERAPY, EXISTENTIALISM, AND BUDDHISM.
On the other hand, this is a useful reflection on how acedia manifests in our culture - ennui as an artistic stance, consumerism, frantic schedules ... Particularly interesting is her discussion (a topic frequently returned to) of the roles of the wisdom of the desert fathers and mothers and of psychiatry/psychoanalysis. Here Norris does an excellent job of bringing their wisdom to bear on our contemporary human condition - reminding me of To Love As God Loves: Conversations With the Early Church.
Also interesting and useful are the biographic elements brought into the discussion - illness as a small child, her husband's suicide attempt, her sister's cancer, her own widowhood ... Through these events one sees how she balances wholeness as supported by her religious community with wholeness as supported by the medical community.
Closing the book is a commonplace book on acedia with quotes from a diverse group of people - Seneca, Evagrius (referred to frequently in the book), John Climacus, David of Augsburg, Dante, Chaucer, Pascal, Wordsworth ...
"Acedia & Me" is full of lots of wisdom and reflection on the spiritual problem of depression/apathy/boredom/distraction, as well as a smattering of wonderful quotes and stories from church literature that has been largely forgotten by the church, and stories about her husband's illnesses, and her own battles with depression (etc.) and quotes from modern authors about society's ills, and... anything else that managed to fall into her file marked "Acedia" over the years.
The problem is that it's barely organized at all. And at 327 pages, it's an awful lot of unorganized notes and thoughts. Some things repeat almost verbatim; often variations on the same theme are twenty pages apart. It gets kind of hard to keep plugging through after the first hundred pages or so; while new stuff does turn up now and then, maintaining a sense of progression through the book is almost impossible.
There is an awful lot of great stuff here. Norris has diagnosed a problem in society and written some excellent words of insight and reflection about it.
Too bad she never found that organizing structure.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I've just gotten into the book, but it looks like a good read. I found the first few chapters a bit tedious, but they did introduce me to things that I was totally unaware of, so... Read morePublished 2 months ago by LouLou
very good read. Learned a lot . great guide through the desert fathers on this theme interwoven with authors personal struggle and memoir which keeps it lively and current. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Terra Incognito
This book was godsend when I really needed it. I had never heard of the term acedia, but it described one of my biggest life struggles. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Kelly
I understood this book to be about depression and marriage and God. It was so much more. Acedia is not depression; it is much more insidious. Read morePublished 8 months ago by empress8411
great writer. Inspirational and informative all at the same time, would buy any of Kathleen Norris' books, she is great.Published 9 months ago by Kate Rae
Good read on Acedia. I liked her explanation of the noonday devil but found her story a bit long.Published 10 months ago by TV
I love this author. I love the way her mind works and she translates spirituality into everyday life. And I was SO glad to find a book by THIS author that named my affliction. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Missymaam
Kathleen Norris, renowned poet, writes a combination instructional book and memoir. In it she talks about acedia, a state of ‘being unable to care’, explaining its historical... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Sandra