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My Bright Abyss: Meditation Of A Modern Believer (2013)

by Christian Wiman(Favorite Author)
4.2 of 5 Votes: 3
0374216789 (ISBN13: 9780374216788)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
review 1: We were supposed to read this as part of a lenten book-club at church. I couldn't get through it. So much navel-gazing and self-examination. Pointless anecdotes combined with even more pointless navel-gazing. If you took worthless pre-adolescent poetry and turned it into prose, it would be this book. The only discernible lesson was in the few times the author seemed to hint that maybe he should stop examining his own belly-button and try to actually experience something. Good call, that. Worse that examining your own belly-button ad nauseum is watching someone else examine thiers, which is why I put down the book and went out and lived my own life.
review 2: I haven’t yet the writing skill to eschew labels entirely when describing a book like this, but it tru
... morely deserves to not be labelled, and not be negated. I’ll try to sift it out of my language, though I’m still in paroxysms having closed the final chapter moments ago.So… a label. Existentialism. It didn’t start with Kierkegaard, or Augustine, or even (I suspect) Ecclesiastes. It’s a fundamental part of human existence that some are willing to access more viscerally than others. Still I’ve caught glimpses of it in my fellow believers who struggle to articulate why they are Christians. It can become a sort of masochism for the psychologically tormented, or a vicarious pleasure for the content.Christian Wiman is a slave neither to self-pity nor stoicism. He articulates why he is a Christian by first explaining the things that almost make him not a Christian. The resurrection, doctrines, his familial tradition: these are barriers to entry for him. But this entire book — more a series of muted outcries — seems to lend credence to these un-convictions. God has revealed himself apophatically to the author (“Christ is contingency”, he says to a widow in the defeat of honesty). A facile faith is chipped down to the great mustard seed which, as the author bites down in anguish, refuses to crack.To read this book is to be brought under the submission of a suffocating paradox; as one’s eyes descend the page, one feels the sensation of descending a ladder of alliteration into the eponymous abyss. By the author’s barely-implicit admission, Wiman has a greater relationship with words than with God. Or rather, God is in the words. Yet he refrains from appealing to the merely Platonic ‘Logos’, the classical demiurge. The prose finds power in frailty: “Faith is the word ‘faith’ decaying into pure meaning.”There is much here to concern the easily disconcerted. Wiman proffers far more literature from his personal poetic canon (that is, his favorite poets) than from biblical literature. Yet he crafts an impossibly nuanced narrative by knitting the reader to himself with these lines. The persistent reader will find that, like Wiman, the book’s past is redeemed “retroactively”. The author’s forbearing allergy to orthodoxy is forgivable. This especially given that, once you read the final chapters, you'll wonder how he managed to sculpt such fine English while in so much pain. That this book even exists seems to me to support the book’s core conceit: “God’s most deep decree / Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me.” (Hopkins) less
Reviews (see all)
Poetic apophatic theology. What I've always not known needed to be said. Lovely.
A very difficult book, but offers a lot of insights into spiritual belief.
Would have been thrice as good in 1/3 the words
Excellent book.
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