“…those who work the edge between what can and can’t be said do not escape from shame but turn toward it and engage with it.” Hyde, Lewis from Trickster Makes this World
You probably haven’t noticed, but there are not a lot of book reviews on this site. Books have been an integral part of my own journey on the Spiritual Path, and when I launched the blog I had every intention of having a rather robust series of book reviews. However, when I sat down to write them I found myself in a conundrum. As I wrote, I noticed that the reviews were full of detail about how a particular book had affected me; realizations, connections, concepts and experiences I could relate to, and episodes in my life where a particular sentiment from a book seemed to perfectly apply. That material seemed entirely too personal to put in a book review.
Book reviews, it seemed to me at the time, should be somewhat distant from the content of a book and attempt to give an ‘objective’ description of topic, style, strengths, weaknesses, etc. When I tried to write a book review that followed the above criteria, though, the reviews seemed overly basic in their description or very stilted and forced. When I subtracted the personal element, I found I didn’t have much to say at all. For awhile my solution was to just not write book reviews, but their omission has felt like a gaping hole in the blog since the beginning. Feeling defeated, I tried a number of strategies to aid me in writing;  reading other people’s book reviews, following a particular formula, even looking up tips for writing book reviews on the internet. My “finished” product, however, was never what I wished it to be and left me dispirited instead of satisfied.
So, of course, it was at 4am one morning during the period of time that I was writing the Trickster post that an idea came to me. Lewis Hyde notes in his book Trickster Makes this World that the Trickster is associated with blocking opportunity or opening a way forward. I had just finished re-reading a portion in Hyde’s book that highlighted how two writers took aspects of themselves that they had been taught to be ‘ashamed’ of (ie, keep silent on) and wrote about them, thus exposing them for all the world to see. By embracing the parts of themselves they felt pressured by their culture or family to reject, they had found their writing voice.
I must have been mulling this over subconsciously and concluded, why not? Although I wasn’t battling anything so serious as the issues of Hyde’s example writers, maybe I should challenge my ‘rejection’ of the personal material I had put into my book reviews. Maybe, instead of turning away from my intimate interactions with the pivotal books on my path – I should be embracing them. Instead of sidelining them, maybe I should feature them. Suddenly, breathlessly, I saw the path forward to giving great books the space they deserve on the blog… and a new series was born J
I have decided to call the series “Dances with Books;” the name capturing that my engagement with a book is, in many cases, more like a dance than a straightforward “reading” from beginning to end. These posts will not be book reviews by any classical definition – although, by reading them you will probably learn something about the book and may be able to decide whether you want to read it or not. I probably won’t talk about writing style, but I will talk about the ways I connect the content of the book with my own life. These posts will tell you my story of reading the book. Yes, they will be personal. Yes, they will be biased. Yes, they will be all about me… but hopefully, in reading about my path through the text, you will find something that resonates or, better yet, points you in a new direction on your own path.
 I have had four reviews in draft for nearly a year now
 no, I do not deliberately get up at 4am. We do have a new baby in the house, however, so I find myself ‘up’ at 4am quite a lot these days J.
 read my post “Trickster Makes this Road” for more about the Trickster influence