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A Reading Vocation

"I Must Read, Read, and Read. It is my Vocation." - Thomas Merton

This is where I chronicle my reading life.  I also blog about writing at Lacey's Late-night Editing.


Book 93/100: I Told My Soul to Sing - Finding God with Emily Dickinson by Kirstin LeMay

I Told My Soul to Sing: Finding God with Emily Dickinson - Kristin LeMay

I read this book over the course of my East Coast vacation a couple weeks ago because visiting the Emily Dickinson museum midway through the trip was to be the pinnacle of the journey, and the reason I decided on the East Coast as our vacation destination this year.

This was a good book to read in conjunction with the visit, as it kept me immersed in Emily Dickinson's world. It's part biography, part academic examination of Emily's poetry, and part spiritual memoir. I liked the examination of Emily Dickinson's complicated and evolving spirituality -- most of which, it must be said, was conjecture based on Kristin LeMay's own reading of Emily's poetry and letters. Still, she makes a compelling case for Emily's faith life, and one to which I can relate. One thing that I think is clear, amidst the disagreement, is that Emily was not one who believed immediately, easily, or without doubt, and somehow, that makes me trust her as a spiritual guide more.

The author mainly lays out her own journey of trusting Emily Dickinson as a spiritual guide, finding kinship with her in areas as diverse as mortality and doubt and the transcendence of beauty. I would have liked this book to be more deeply spiritual memoir; I wanted to know even more about the author's own faith journey. Where the book fell most flat for me was in the academic examination of specific poems, the picking apart of various lines and words to make her case, etc. Although central to uncovering how the author got to her ideas about Emily Dickinson's spiritual life, it just didn't engage me as much as the personal stories about either woman's life did. Still, it definitely gave me a better understanding of some of the poems in this collection -- most of which are fairly obscure -- than I would have come to on my own.

While this was a good choice for the trip in terms of subject-matter, I could see early on that it may not have been good "travel reading" in general. Although accessible, the subjects dealt with are weighty, and it's not the type of book in which someone can just be "swept away." I think it might be better suited to reading slowly before bed over a month than on airplanes and train stations in a week.