Grr. Once again, tricked into finishing (er, skimming) a book that I thought would be vastly better than it was. Recommended by a now-forgotten blog source, I was intrigued by the idea of this 1950s account of a writer who visits monasteries across Europe as an economical way to work on his writing and live cheaply. The idea of silence is so foreign to today’s constant jangle of cellphone, radio, TV, internet.
Great concept, but awful writing. Apparently taken from letters that he penned at the time to a correspondent who would become his wife, he makes no effort to write well. Or he’s already an “established writer” therefore he doesn’t try. I also might have a small bias against people with 3 names. And forgive me, but I happen to need French & Latin translated into English. An example of the writing that made my head hurt (notice the constant interruption before he makes a single point):
For, in the seclusion of a cell – an existence whose quietness is only varied by the silent meals, the solemnity of ritual and long solitary walks in the woods – the troubled waters of the mind grow still and clear, and much that is hidden away and all that clouds it floats to the surface and can be skimmed away; and after a time one reaches a state of peace that is unthought of in the ordinary world.
Best part of this book was the intro by Karen Armstrong. (“… you cannot read a sonnet by Shakespeare in the chatter and tumult of a party.”)