December 23, 2008

Acedia & the Times

This review in the NY Times about a new book by Kathleen Norris was predictable as far as the Grey Lady favoring an organic explanation for sloth rather than sin, but was not so predictable in exactly how it did so. Personally, I was disappointed in the lack of meat on the review's bones. I'm always sympathetic to therapeutic explanations but this seemed to serve unwittingly as an apologia for Norris's case.

Ms. Harrison, the author of the Times piece, suggests maybe the devil talked Norris into taking the side of the practice of virtue, but I really don't think Harrison wants to go there. It's far more believable to think that she is doing Wormwood's bidding than Norris. The therapy culture, after all, has led to so much less sin hasn't it? Wasn't the priest abuse scandal partially caused by the view that they they needed only therapy?

Then too it might've been counterproductive for her to mention all the lights cited by Norris:
Dante. Pascal. St. Ignatius of Loyola. John Donne. Chaucer. Seneca. Coleridge. Kierkegaard. Baudelaire. Chekhov. Joyce. Albee. Joseph Brodsky. F. Scott Fitzgerald. John Berryman. Flannery O’Connor. Graham Greene. W. H. Auden. Kafka. Evelyn Waugh. Aldous Huxley. Karl Menninger. Thomas Merton. William Styron.
Oy! That's sort of like a prosecuting attorney mentioning that Mother Teresa proclaimed the defendant's innocence.

If Kathleen Norris used to be the darling of the Eastern elite intellectual set, both for being a poet and her non-dogmatic stance concerning religious doctrines, it seems she's risking her appeal with this book. Wormwood would not approve.


mrsdarwin said...

I've been looking forward to reading this book, but as sloth seems to be one of my definitive failings, I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

TS said...

Ah yes, a catch-22 of which I am very familiar.

But you seem to me to be very unslothful person, given your home improvement projects and ever-increasing family size.