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Home » Books » Fiction & Literature » Literary Collections

Lying Awake

By Mark Salzman

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Format: Paperback, 192 pages, New edition Edition
Other Information: Illustrations
Published In: United Kingdom, 01 January 2003
In a Carmelite monastery on the outskirts of Los Angeles, life has continued virtually unchanged for centuries. Here, Sister John of the Cross lives in the service of God. She is the only nun who experiences visions and is regarded by the others as a spiritual master. But Sister John's is also plagued by powerful headaches and when a doctor reveals that they may be dangerous, she faces a devastating choice. Is this grace merely an illness and will a 'cure' mean the end of her illuminations and a soul dry and searching?

Promotional Information

A bestseller in the USA, selling over 60,000 copies, LYING AWAKE is a brilliant portrayal of one woman's trial at the perilous intersection of faith and reason 'Powerful ... sheds light on the cloister of the monastery as well as on the cloister of the mind ... an unusual and notable achievement' Erica Wagner, THE TIMES 'A singularly rich and abundant work ... a rare willingness to engage faith on its own ground, to find in it a value that transcends the agnostic shrug and the therapeutic pieties of New Age shills' NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

About the Author

Mark Salzman is the author of IRON AND SILK, an account of his two years in China, two novels, THE LAUGHING SUTRA and THE SOLOIST, finalist for the LOS ANGELES TIMES Book Prize and available from Bloomsbury, and LOST IN PLACE, a memoir. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife.

Reviews

Mysticism meets modern medicine in this intriguing r‚cit of a nun's dark night of the soul. It's 1997, and Sister John of the Cross, a Carmelite nun in a monastery just outside Los Angeles, seeks treatment for epilepsy, although the remedy threatens to diminish her formidable spiritual powers. The Carmelites place heavy emphasis on prayer, and over the years this discipline has helped Sister John to develop miraculous visionary gifts. When severe headaches precipitate a collapse that requires medical intervention, Sister John finds the process starkly juxtaposed against her centuries-old traditions: she discovers it's almost impossible to discuss infused contemplation with a neurologist. Is her continual prayer "hyperreligiosity"?; her choice to remain celibate "hyposexuality"?; her will to control her body "anorexia"? Although she accepts a CT scan and its diagnosis, Sister John determines that faith offers a more substantial, meaningful reality. Written with simple elegance, alternating narrative and prayer, the tale is engaging yet maintains a curious emotional elusiveness. A drama centering on the realm of mysticism is bound to be difficult to describe and, like Ron Hansen's Mariette in Ecstasy, this story doesn't aim to render the nun's spiritual life and psyche in accessible terms for lay readers. What Salzman conveys with perfect clarity is that momentary, extraordinary mental state in which physical pain becomes pure, lucid grace poised between corporeal reality and eternity, a state that Sister John desires to prolong for a lifetime. Salzman's talent for calling forth the details and essence of unfamiliar realms is well known: his memoir, Iron & Silk, was acclaimed for its deft rendering of life in China, no less authentic for being written by an outsider. With this third novel (after The Soloist), the author continues to surprise with his unorthodox choices and consistently challenging themes, story lines and characters. Eight illus. by Stephanie Shieldhouse. (Sept.) FYI: The Soloist was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Normally, the contemplative Sisters of the Carmelite monastery of St. Joseph outside Los Angeles would have little contact with the everyday world. However, Sister John of the Cross, a longtime Carmelite, has brought some outside attention (and needed income) to the small religious community, including an invitation to deliver a poem at the Vatican, because of her inspirational writings based on the intense spiritual visions she experiences regularly. But when equally intense headaches send her to the hospital, Sister John is shocked to learn that her visions may originate from a life-threatening physical condition. Worse, if she agrees to the recommended surgery, the operation is likely to eliminate forever what she had accepted as a special grace from God. To make her decision, Sister John must reexamine her path to the cloistered life and test the strength of her most cherished beliefs. In this spare, affecting novel, Salzman (Lost in Place, The Soloist) creates a compelling portrait of faith and the interior life. Recommended for public and academic libraries.DStarr E. Smith, Tysons-Pimmit Regional Lib., VA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"A lean, seemingly effortless tour de force...a perfect little novel."--"The New Yorker ""Spare, luminous...Salzman makes this cloistered society not only believable, but also compelling."--"San Francisco Chronicle""A singularly rich and abundant work.... [Salzman has an] ability to convey spiritual states with a lambent clarity."--"The New York Times Book Review ""A satisfying and evocative questioning of faith and art."--"The Oregonian" "Mark Salzman is...a poet, capturing in the pages of "Lying Awake," his shining novel about devotion and doubt, a mysticism that reaches back in time to an older tradition, yet dwells easily in the present."--"Los Angeles Times""A gentle story.... Graceful, lucid and enjoyable."--"Newsday""Elegant.... Salzman's depiction of Sister John's conflict, convent life and this society of devoted women is a marvelous accomplishment."--"The Seattle Times"""Lying Awake "showcases an almost ethereal talent, one that can handle complex ideas with a touch lighter than air."--"New York Post"

EAN: 9780747561408
ISBN: 0747561400
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Dimensions: 19.8 x 12.9 centimetres (0.15 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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