A Swallow Press Book
“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.”
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.
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. More info →
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The memoir is the most popular and expressive literary form of our time. Writers embrace the memoir and readers devour it, propelling many memoirs by relative unknowns to the top of the best-seller list. Writing programs challenge authors to disclose themselves in personal narrative. Memoir and personal narrative urge writers to face the intimacies of the self and ask what is true.
In a fascinating work of religious history and cultural inquiry, Hatfield brings to life the true story of a nineteenth-century farmer-spiritualist, Jonathan Koons, whom thousands traveled to Ohio to see. As heirs to the second Great Awakening, he and his followers were part of a larger, uniquely American moment that still marks the culture today.
In a thoughtful, humorous voice born of Appalachian storytelling, Childers brings to life family tales that affected the entire region to make sense of her personal journey and find the joy and clarity that often emerge after the earth shakes terribly beneath us.
When Deborah Gold and her husband signed up to foster parent in their rural mountain community, they did not foresee that it would lead to a roller-coaster fifteen years of involvement with a traumatized yet resilient birth family. They fell in love with Michael (a toddler when he came to them), yet they had to reckon with the knowledge that he could leave their lives at any time. In Counting Down, Gold tells the story of forging a family within a confounding system.