As some of you might know, Jon Katz, one of our own has recently had his latest book published, Running to The Mountain. I've read an advance copy of the book, and was impressed (as I usually am) with Katz' take on life, spirituality, and what it means to be human. As he is obviously one of our own here, I won't even pretend to be able to give an objective review-I leave that to others-including the print version of USAToday, a rave review. For the reading benefit of the audience, I've included an excerpt from the new book below, along with the book cover. Read it-it's worth time. Update: 02/18 11:39 by H : The USA Today review is online.Update: 02/18 02:08 by H :Katz has written some words talking about this-look above the review to read it.Just want to report that since the Slashdot excerpt of my book went up, the Amazon.com sales ranking went from 9,000 to 200 in less than two hours. That's a pretty striking testament to the punch of this site. I fought pretty hard for the publisher to release the first serial rights here, (they didn't get any money) for several reasons:
- I think the site is great and Rob and Jeff deserve some help with the rent money. Books fought from this site send some money back to them.
- We write a lot on this site about empowerment, about individuals taking some responsibility for their technology. Writers need to do the same. I argued for months that I could bring my book to readers directly and bypass the hype machinery than handcuff writers and keep them dependent on reviewers and producers and marketers. So I always saw a link between an OSS site and an experiment like this.
And it worked. It probably doesn't take that many books to go from 9,000 to 200 (last week my ranking was l.2 million) but I think this is an experiment that has really worked. It shows sites like this reach people, even sell things. It gives some money back to a site that has given everybody else, including me, a hell of a lot. It suggests another empowering possibility for the Net. Writers can get off their butts and communicate directly with readers.
So thanks to those of you who have been e-mailing me those nice words. Thanks to the people who are buying the book and giving a dollar or two back to the site. And thanks even to the flamers for adding their usual free-wheeling spice.
I plan to top 100 by the end of the today. The USA Today review helped, obviously, but this is the place that made it happen.
you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Running to the Mountain
Written by Jon Katz
So, tentatively, with equal parts determination and terror, I set out on what Thomas Merton liked to call a journey of the soul.
Merton, a Trappist monk whose work I began when I was in the 9th grade and in sore need of solace, as did millions of others all over the world, was my guide on this trip. I'd read almost everything he'd written. He was a Catholic, I was raised a Jew; he had absolute faith, I never did. Still, for reasons I may never completely understand, he spoke to me, personally and powerfully. As a boy, I'd written him a letter that he never answered; if he had, I might have wound up in the monastery with him. Merton died thirty years ago. I never met him, but if a stranger's voice can enter one's soul, his permeated mine.
"It is absolutely impossible," he wrote all those years ago, "for a man to live without some kind of faith."
It is equally impossible to change your life without some.
A prolific author, journal keeper, letter writer and poet, Merton lived in the abbey of Gethsemani in the Kentucky woods. He was approaching 50 when he retreated to a hermitage; perhaps it's not coincidental that as I approached 50, I ran to a mountain, too.
Merton was obsessed with a central issue for our time -- figuring out how to live, trying to forge a life of balance, purpose and meaning. I've grown to share his obsession, his belief that life demands a lot of tinkering, and requires people to give birth to themselves not just once, but over and over.
Central to much of Merton's writing was the idea of these journeys, powerful images of seeking and traveling. The journey of the soul -- his term -- is to me one of his most important notions. It has enormous moral force and potent appeal to us wretched pilgrims as we struggle to find direction, to figure out what to believe, to incorporate some measure of spirituality and peace into our frantic lives.
On my own journey, in the years since I stared into those monitors, my life changed more radically than I had imagined.
I underwent years of psychoanalysis, became a writer, and swore never to work for a large institution again. Shedding ambitions, friends and colleagues of 15 years, I left the world of offices, annual evaluations, meetings, suits and expense accounts behind for good.
The world I entered -- the life of a suburban parent and solitary author -- could not have been more different. I crossed a vast cultural and social divide in months, from barking orders in a high-tech control room to holding up in the attic of my house trying to write and sell a novel, keeping one eye on the clock so I never missed a carpool.
Had I a realistic idea of what a writer's life would really be like, I would have thought a lot longer and harder.
But the point was, I began one year a big-deal producer and ended it at home, fielding calls about playdates from the other Moms, learning the ways of supermarkets, and sitting in front of an early primitive Apple computer at the dawn of the Digital Age clacking out the story of a network taken over by a heartless conglomerate.
So began the wildest ride of my life.
But as I turned 50 in the summer of l997, even before I stood on that mountain, I already suspected that I needed to take another trip, even if I didn't really know why.
A decade, seven books and countless articles later, I was driving up the New York State Thruway, my heart pounding like some eager traveler about the hit the road again.
Change, I remembered all too well, is risky and frightening. Much as you flail around seeking help, when it's all said and done, there is only one genuine source of inspiration, courage and determination -- that's you.
In fact, running to the mountain, another spiritual adventure, proved even more frightening than the first. A decade of shocks, disappointments, successes and defeats had accumulated since the last trip. If I had a heightened sense that one could successfully change one's life, being a writer had taught me time and again that rejection and failure were even greater possibilities. The first time, I'd leaped more or less blindly into the void. This time, I had a sense of what awaited me.
Only recently has it occurred to me that recounting this ongoing trek might be interesting or useful to others. But because so many people have embarked on journeys of their own -- of all sorts, from embarking on parenthood or divorce to changing a career and facing the end of life -- it may be worth telling.
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