Earlier this evening, I was pulled away from listening to the manager of the hotel, Ross, telling us about a recent Orlando vacation, when I heard the bells at Our Lady of Lourdes, just across the river in St. Anthony Main, chiming the hour. I was struck by the calm that comes after such a sound, and I immediately thought back to my very first encounter with Kathleen Norris: The Cloister Walk.
The Cloister Walk was very popular when it first came out, but I had no use for such things until several years later. Now, reading about this woman from Dakota (via Hawaii) spending time experiencing the liturgy of the hours while living with Benedictine monks seems so beautiful and helpful. I’m not sure I have the discipline for such an endeavor, but there’s something in me that wants to try.
In a few minutes the chimes will sound again, and I will find calm after the last echo of the bell, just as I always find calm in the middle of a good book.
I originally read DAKOTA years ago, just after I’d left South Dakota – I think. I remember thinking that it helped me to understand these prairie women, who can talk about jello salads and cattle with equal ease, who can pluck their own geese, and mix up homemade acne remedies without a thought. It helped me to understand my father-in-law, and to see that church communities are so tight night, in South Dakota, at least, in part because when your nearest neighbor is miles away, it’s comforting to know you have a bond with someone, even if that bond isn’t having lunch once a week, but singing hymns together each Sunday.
Norris’s work is non-fiction, and the language isn’t difficult, but the concepts are almost profound.
I think anyone moving to the prairie from a major city should be handed this book when they get their new driver’s license.
On Thursday, October 29th, Booking through Thursday asked:
Who’s your favorite author that other people are NOT reading? The one you want to evangelize for, the one you would run popularity campaigns for? The author that, so far as you’re concerned, everyone should be reading–but that nobody seems to have heard of. You know, not JK Rowling, not Jane Austen, not Hemingway–everybody’s heard of them. The author that you think should be that famous and can’t understand why they’re not…
I don’t know that any of the authors I read are particularly obscure, but I do think both Kathleen Norris and Lauren Willig are underrated. Kathleen Norris’s most famous work is The Cloister Walk which had quite a lot of media coverage when it originally came out, but her other works, most notably Dakota: a Spiritual Geography tend to be underplayed, and her poetry is just amazing. She’s one of the authors I would most like to meet. If you like poetry, consider a copy of Little Girls in Church.
Lauren Willig, on the other hand, is prolific and amazing. I don’t know what kind of anti aging product she keeps hidden in her bathroom, nor do I understand where she finds the energy to be an attorney and write historical novels, about a book a year, in hardcover, but as a long-time fan of The Scarlet Pimpernel, I was instantly hooked on Willig’s work when I picked up, The Secret History of the Pink Carnation several years ago. The newest book in the series, The Betrayal of the Blood Lily is new this month.