LIVING TOGETHER ALONE: The New American Monasticism by Charles A. Fracchia

LIVING TOGETHER ALONE: The New American Monasticism

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A quick tour, part pilgrimage, part sentimental journey, through a dozen or so monasteries, from Nova Scotia to New Mexico. Fracchia claims to be an unprejudiced reporter, letting these communities--most of them Catholic or Buddhist--speak for themselves, but this is clearly not the case. He was so impressed, not to say overwhelmed, by the cheerfulness, kindness, serenity, and single-minded purpose of the men and women he met that he made no attempt to judge their situation critically. He spoke to abbots and monks, or spiritual leaders and followers, and simply passes on their point of view. These inside assessments range from positive to rapturous--if there were any malcontents lurking about, Fracchia never met them. In any event he's less interested in the psychic state of his hosts (why are they so happy? how could they give up their careers, their freedom, their comfort so readily?) than in the utopian vistas opened up by their way of life. He's looking for an alternative to the inhuman materialism of contemporary America, and wonders whether this is it. All the groups he visits are in some sense experimental--some because they don't demand celibacy or segregate the sexes, some because they streamline ancient traditions, some because they blend East and West-and Fracchia urgently wants their experiments to succeed. His book has many blemishes. For one thing, it moves too quickly. It sketches the history of a group, offers some facts and impressions, and travels on. Also, the writing is often stiff. But Fracchia still manages to capture the irreducibly fascinating scene of apparently normal people doing things normal people never dream of--like getting up at 3:45 in the morning to sing psalms. Ingenuous but effective reportage.

Pub Date: April 4th, 1979
Publisher: Harper & Row