Monday, April 26, 2010

Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris

I never knew what acedia was until I picked up this book. It means something like sloth, ennui, what the French called "le spleen anglais" in the 19th century; a weariness of life and of everything and everyone. According to Kathleen Norris in Acedia & Me, acedia was recognized as one of the deadly sins in the Middle Ages, but unless you're a student of monastic disciplines you probably don't know that. She is, and was able through her studies to identify herself as a frequent victim of acedia.

This book is part memoir, part scholarly study of the subject of acedia, and part reflection on a writing career and spiritual journey. It moves in a somewhat circular way from one subject to another and back again, rather than taking a linear approach, although the memoir is more or less in chronological order.

I found many things to like in this book. The first two thirds, in particular, were very nicely written and thought-provoking, and I enjoyed reading the excerpts from Norris's source materials in the last section. The final third of the book seemed to drag a bit, though, and appeared to go back over some of the earlier material.

Acedia & Me is not too heavy on what Norris calls "God talk", so it's accessible to non-Christian readers in my opinion. The writing is direct and easy to read, considering the complexity of the subject-matter, and Norris's personal illustrations are very helpful. I would recommend this for readers who have a general interest in spirituality and spiritual health. In the end I felt I was left without answers, but with a greater appreciation of the questions.

This book might be worth a re-read, so I'll give it the "excellent" label.

1 comment:

Jena said...

I am so glad someone out there finished this and liked it--and thinks it might be worth a re-read sometime! (I tried, but I just couldn't.)