jaccschn, June 11, 2013 (view all comments by jaccschn)
This is a great read. One can really sense the anguish over the decision to have the surgery which will change the preceptions of self or to not have the surgery and endanger herself.
Ben from Texas, June 8, 2013 (view all comments by Ben from Texas)
I found this book to be every bit as gorgeous and controlled as people say it is. The writing is nearly flawless, and the story requires little effort to finish in a single sitting. I did however find the premise somewhat more compelling than the execution. While Salzman does complexify what we understand about Sister John of the Cross as she experiences a truly compelling conflict, the conflict itself remains static and unchanged until its resolution. Essentially, the sister's choice remains straightforward, and the novel itself becomes a brief study on the nature of this binary. I found myself wondering, if from among the hundreds of books written about Joan of Arc, whether Salzman was perhaps too aware of other writers who had explored a similar question as what is addressed in Lying Awake, and in trying to avoid replication, erred, if only slightly, toward something less generic, but also less complex.
This book has me interested in Salzman, and I'm curious to read his other titles.
Lying Awake (Vintage Contemporaries)
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Vintage Books USA -
Sister John of the Cross is a nun with special gifts; she is filled with poetry, with love for God and the Innocent Spouse, and with pain (real pain in the form of blinding headaches that give her no rest, but during which she has visions). Something like a hammer in her skull reveals to her that humans are "God dreaming" and other flights of breathless grace, but when the Sister discovers that there may be a more earthly component to all of this, she is forced to make a choice that is nothing less than a test of her faith. In Lying Awake, Mark Salzman has written a book so lovely that it seems like something that is itself on the verge of escape.
by New York Post,
"Lying Awake showcases an almost ethereal talent, one that can handle complex ideas with a touch lighter than air."
by The Seattle Times,
"Elegant....Salzman's depiction of Sister John's conflict, convent life, and this society of devoted women is a marvelous accomplishment."
"A gentle story....Graceful, lucid, and enjoyable."
by Los Angeles Times,
"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."
by The Oregonian,
"A satisfying and evocative questioning of faith and art."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"A deliberate and somewhat plodding account of life inside a Carmelite convent, told with a surfeit of awe by Salzman, who seems to have read too much Rumer Godden for his own good."
by Publishers Weekly,
"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....With this third novel (after The Soloist), the author continues to surprise with his unorthodox choices and consistently challenging themes, story lines, and characters."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"In an era of trendy spirituality, Salzman has rendered the real thing. His book should be short-listed for all the literary prizes, but it has the kind of grace that doesn't demand them."
by Daniel Mendelsohn, New York Magazine,
"Readers interested in lyricism, the bone-beautiful kind that arises from a small thing intensely considered, would do well to pick up Mark Salzman's Lying Awake....[T]he concreteness and economy of Salzman's writing, his eye and ear for tiny, resonant details, eventually yield their riches in a clear-eyed vision not, perhaps, of what God means, but certainly of what it means to be a human being."
by The New Yorker,
"A lean, seemingly effortless tour de force...a perfect little novel."
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