THE BEST AMERICAN SPIRITUAL WRITING 2004

Philip Zaleski, Editor, Jack Miles, Introduction by . Houghton Mifflin $27.50 (304p) ISBN 978-0-618-44302-4 ISBN 978-0-618-44303-1

Readers of Zaleski's anthologies will be glad to know that, after a yearlong hiatus, his spirituality series has found a new home with Houghton Mifflin's Best American books. This sixth volume follows the expected format: some 25 essays and 10 poems that, according to the introduction, "address the eternal oppositions of good and evil, virtue and vice, creation and destruction; the sorrows and exaltations of heart, mind, and soul; the ceaseless quest for God." With approaches ranging from Seyyed Hossein Nasr's philosophical argument for the primacy of consciousness to Mark Doty's ecstatic vision of "fire [calling] its double down," the collection includes household names like Natalie Goldberg and Oliver Sacks alongside newer authors. Bus driver Robin Cody, for example, pays touching tribute to "birth-damaged or world-beaten children," and memoirist Lindsey Crittenden describes depression, death, her mother and the kind of prayer that is "pure throw of yourself into the unknown." Welcoming varied perspectives, Zaleski includes David Gelernter's summary of Judaism as well as a sprinkling of overt Buddhists and Christians, though most selections transcend religious categories. A large number, like David James Duncan's "Earth Music" and Allen Hoey's "Essay on Snow," focus on the natural world, while some, like B.K. Loren's "Word Hoard," resist classification. With few misses and many hits, the collection is a thought-provoking and often poignant read. (Oct. 14)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 275 pages - 978-0-618-44303-1
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