SPIRITUAL QUESTS: The Art and Craft of Religious Writing by William--Ed. Zinsser

SPIRITUAL QUESTS: The Art and Craft of Religious Writing

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this third volume in Houghton Mifflin's Writer's Craft Series--drawn, as were its predecessors, from talks at the New York Public Library--six famous writers comment on the rote of religion in the shaping of their craft. Zinsser, who also edited the first two books in the series, begins by roping together the contributors as pilgrims searching for ""the source of their faith as individuals and of their strength as artists."" Mary Gordon speaks next, delivering a long, elegant memoir of her Catholic childhood, recalling a time when she wanted to be a nun and walked with thorns in her shoes. She sees the Mass as an ""excellent training ground"" for a budding novelist--thanks to its structure, drama, language, and the odd characters who wander in and out of church. David Bradley describes in a relaxed way his family's lineage of Methodist preachers, the powerful influence of his father, and his own experience leading worship services as a child. He concludes that to be a good writer he must reveal hard truths about himself. Jaroslav Pelikan weighs in with the most scholarly essay here, probing the works of Augustine, Newman, and Boethius to see how narrative can become a religious experience in its own right. Next up is Frederick Beuchner, drawing analogies between faith and fiction, schmoozing about his Godric and Leo Bebb novels, and declaring the importance of honesty in fiction. Hugh Nissenson chips in with a spare memoir of his discovery of God, Norse myth, and writing. Finally, Allen Ginsberg, eyes shining, announces that ""real poetry practitioners are practitioners of mind awareness,"" and proves it through a swirling, dancing essay that swings from Kerouac to Olson to Pound to Tibetan Buddhism. Very little how-to information here about religious writing, but the autobiographical snippets give clues about why some writers choose God as their theme. Engaging throughout.

Pub Date: Sept. 27th, 1988
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin