Today, the surprisingly elastic form of the memoir embraces subjects that include dying, illness, loss, relationships, and self-awareness. Writing to reveal the inner self—the pilgrimage into one’s spiritual and/or religious nature—is a primary calling. Contemporary memoirists are exploring this field with innovative storytelling, rigorous craft, and new styles of confessional authorship. Now, Thomas Larson brings his expertise as a critic, reader, and teacher to the boldly evolving and improvisatory world of spiritual literature.
In his book-length essay Spirituality and the Writer, Larson surveys the literary insights of authors old and new who have shaped religious autobiography and spiritual memoir—from Augustine to Thomas Merton, from Peter Matthiessen to Cheryl Strayed. He holds them to an exacting standard: they must render transcendent experience in the writing itself. Only when the writer’s craft prevails can the fleeting and profound personal truths of the spirit be captured. Like its predecessor, Larson’s The Memoir and the Memoirist,Spirituality and the Writer will find a home in writing classrooms and book groups, and be a resource for students, teachers, and writers who seek guidance with exploring their spiritual lives.
About the Author
Thomas Larson is a critic, memoirist, and essayist and the author of three books: The Sanctuary of Illness: A Memoir of Heart Disease, The Saddest Music Ever Written: The Story of Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” and The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative. For twenty years, he has been a staff writer for the San Diego Reader.
"(S)uperb…. (Spirituality and the Writer’s) erudite analysis of texts and expansive concern for the human condition is both inspiring and reassuring, creating a kinship between the writers Larson discusses and the reader.“—Rain Taxi
“In Spirituality and the Writer, Thomas Larson offers an astute examination of the craft and artistry needed to successfully render faith, doubt, and transcendent experience onto the page. From Thomas Merton to Annie Dillard, Cheryl Strayed to Mother Teresa, Larson defines the genre of spiritual memoir broadly, creating a powerful resource for writers, teachers, students, and anyone with an interest in spirit-seeking literature. Larson’s captivating book is both a toolbox and an inspiration.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of The Mindful Writer
“Thomas Larson is a first-rate scholar and writer. Spirituality and the Writer is a book for anyone interested in spiritual writing, as well as for anyone wishing to live a well-considered life.”—Lee Martin, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Bright Forever
“Reading Spirituality and the Writer is like dream-walking in the tracks of a master guide to the sublime. Larson’s inquiry into the realm of authentic spiritual writing creates a tableau of the erudite, the creative, and the spiritual. Not only will I return to this book but to every work that Larson plumbs through his expansive lens of the spiritual writer and the unmoored soul.”—Kathryn Winograd, author of Phantom Canyon: Essays of Reclamation
Praise for The Memoir and the Memoirist: “This thoughtfully reasoned and lucidly written book delves further into the dynamics of the new memoir than anything I know of, and is sure to spark discussion, help guide would-be practitioners, and bring much–needed illumination to a vexed subject.”—Phillip Lopate