A journal kept by the scion of the famed publishing family records memories of his coming of age, his youthful conversion to Roman Catholicism and his evolving thoughts on family, art, music, literature and God.
Every spiritual journey that the profoundly religious Scribner documented in 2002 is familiar, conventional even, with few surprises and no epiphanies—though he sees the latter everywhere, just as he sees the hand of God in every coincidence and the touch of an angel in every kindness. Scribner remarks that he believes religion can lead a person to art just as art can lead a person to religion, and both art and music are prominent in many of his entries. Others are autobiographical shards that eventually combine to form a memoir of privilege that ends shortly after he earns his Ph.D. from Princeton and goes to work as an editor at the family’s eponymous publishing house. The author appears to believe in the literal truth of the Gospels, though he is troubled by certain violent aspects of the Old Testament. Twice he expresses great discomfort with Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac; he prefers to view it as Abraham’s misunderstanding of God’s intent. Likewise, he informs us that he doesn’t permit Scribner authors to refer to Hemingway’s death as a suicide, for that is a mortal sin, and surely pious Papa is not roasting in Hell. One of Scribner’s epiphanies is decidedly odd: “Rocks don’t change: they are the constant touchstone of time.” (Geology, we must conclude, has it wrong.) On Christmas night he has another epiphany: Less is more. The next day, he’s on a plane to Florida. We can only hope that, true to the revelation, he’s downgraded his accommodations to coach.
Many knowledgeable comments about art, music and publishing intertwined with religious commentary of the sort one expects from the spiritual-journey genre.