The Cloister Walk Paperback – Apr 1 1997
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In the tradition of Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris gives us an intimate look at how religious life fills a gap in the soul. Her poetic sensibilities internalize the monastery as a symbol of spirituality, with its sanctity and humor, questioning and uncertainty, rhythm and vigor. Beyond moral precepts and Bible stories, Cloister Walk is a very personal account of religion lived fully. It depicts a depth and beauty of spirituality in monastic life that has survived the vicissitudes of Roman Catholic politics and pomp.
From Publishers Weekly
The allure of the monastic life baffles most lay people, but in her second book Norris (Dakota) goes far in explaining it. The author, raised Protestant, has been a Benedictine oblate, or lay associate, for 10 years, and has lived at a Benedictine monastery in Minnesota for two. Here, she compresses these years of experience into the diary of one liturgical year, offering observations on subjects ranging from celibacy to dealing with emotions to Christmas music. Like the liturgy she loves, this meandering, often repetitive book is perhaps best approached through the lectio divina practiced by the Benedictines, in which one tries to "surrender to whatever word or phrase captures the attention." There is a certain nervous facility to some of Norris's jabs at academics, and she is sometimes sanctimonious. But there is no doubting her conviction, exemplified in her defense of the much-maligned Catholic "virgin martyrs," whose relevance and heroism she wants to redeem for feminists. What emerges, finally, is an affecting portrait?one of the most vibrant since Merton's?of the misunderstood, often invisible world of monastics, as seen by a restless, generous intelligence.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
WHO WILL LIKE THIS BOOK? Norris is a poet. This book is a collection of sketches from inside the monastery, from monastic history, from her own small town, from her vacations, and from the cities she has lived and worked in. Some chapters are long, while others are short. Her themes bounce from chapter to chapter. If you like poetic imagery written in prose and are interested in this theme, you will like this book.
WHO WILL NOT LIKE THIS BOOK? If you like to read technical manuals and books with finely structured outlines, you will probably not like this book. You may feel that Norris rambles too much and doesn't stay with her main point.
Once you get past the gimmick - a modern poet finding centering in a monastery - there is still much to like about this book. It is a combination of a lot of things - a painfully personal journal, a catalog of discoveries and musings, a polished essay on laundry that was published in the New Yorker, and several brilliant pieces that stand as academic writing, ready for a feminist publication or academic journal.
I think the latter were my favorite. It is informative and enjoyable to find Ms. Norris taking on the virgin martyrs, looking at catholic history and practice with a modern feminist eye, and finding much to like, and much to weep over. Another similar essay comparing the role of biblical prophets and modern day poets (both dwellers on the "margin" of society, yet deeply necessary to that society) is also excellent.
Norris' respect for the Word is wonderful, as well. She writes much and often about the poetry of the Bible - psalms, Jeremiah - and how they fit and fill her life. She brings new life to what, for many of us, have been wrongly dead words.
Her reflections on the monastery are good. She gives monks and nuns an earthy reality, talking about their quirks, their sense of humor, their doubts and struggles as well as their achievements, discipline, and success. She spends a fair amount of time digging into the heritage and history of monasticism and christianity - apparently she is reading Christian classics as she is living at the monastery - and I learned much about ancient monks, martyrs, and saints.Read more ›
I find that much of contemporary spiritual literature, although frequently heartfelt and sincere, is glib and unsubstantial. "The Cloister Walk" was different. It was thoughtful and aware, but maybe better than that, it was smart. Although the author's preoccupation with her status as a tortured poet was less than riveting, I appreciated the context that Kathleen Norris' scholarly impulses provided and I found that I could agree with many of her various points of view. (That whole virgin martyrs phenomenon does have a wierd legacy.)
As I read, I felt much of my self-generated tension drain away from me. Norris took me along on the journey with her, and I was glad to go. She offered me a sense of the peace I so desperately craved.
Let me say this, I'm a voracious and consumptive reader. Few are the books I revisit. "The Cloister Walk" is still on my nightstand, two years after I first picked it up.
Most recent customer reviews
A very poetic, insightful book on her stays in a Benedictine Monastery.Published 13 months ago by J de Mestral
This book received excellent reviews; I had to satisfy my curiosity and read it. I slowly read, hoping to discover some great truths I may have missed these past 6 decades. Read morePublished on Feb. 23 2004 by V. L. Wilson
I was expecting this to be a book about the monastic experience, but instead, it is a book mostly about Kathleen Norris and her social theories. Read morePublished on Feb. 3 2004
Kathleen Norris' magnum opus, The Cloister Walk, has provided the entrance into monastic spirituality for almost as many people as any work in history, assuming, of course, that... Read morePublished on June 29 2003 by FrKurt Messick
For many people, Kathleen Norris' story is somewhat familiar. She was raised in a faith tradition as a child, abandoned her faith, or at least put her faith on hold, then... Read morePublished on June 11 2003 by Timothy Kearney
I had been curious about "The Cloister Walk" for many years, but have been inexplicably reluctant to read it. Read morePublished on June 8 2003 by X. Libris
The Cloister Walk
by Kathleen Norris
Calling to mind the writings of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, Kathleen Norris writes a deeply personal journal of spiritual... Read more
Although Ms. Norris book describes much of the beauty of the Catholic faith, it ultimately is spoiled by conceit and self-promotion. Read morePublished on Oct. 21 2002 by Deedee
It would be difficult for me to say a harsh thing about this book or the companion audio tapes read by Debra Winger. Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2002 by Dave Tropeano
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