Mixed essays on matters of life, death, and academia.
Sanders (Hunting for Hope, 1998) opens with a meditation on the loss of loved ones, the inevitable leave-taking of children who grow up to make lives and homes of their own, and the advancing years—events that can easily set a person to wondering what life is all about. He goes on to recount his long-standing concern with scriptural questions, venturing thoughtful readings of biblical passages and offering a few conclusions on the spiritual plane. Some of these are elegant in their plainspoken sincerity: “I no longer believe that Jesus can do our dying for us; we must do that for ourselves, one by one.” Sanders goes on to deliver fine pieces on such topics as the many kinds of wood that make up his Bloomington, Indiana, house (whose patterns, he claims, point to the underlying order of nature) and the importance of diversity in agriculture and culture alike. His energy soon flags, however, and he strays far from the questions of spirit his title promises into hurried, even throwaway essays on the books he keeps in his bedroom and the kind of writing he expects from the college students in his charge. His least successful essays are second-person addresses to his father and other family members (“Whenever I get irritated by the latest corruption or cruelty in the daily news, I remember you grumbling as you read the paper”), epistles that unfold with all the subtlety of a greeting card and lower the average considerably.
Capably written but perfunctory pieces that will fail to please any but the most devoted readers.