©1987 Robert Coles; (P)1997 Blackstone Audio Inc.
trying to see the world through my ears
Above average, in depth biography - Day produced so much good autobiograhical writing and has been so much written about, yet Coles does more than re-hash old material or re-tell facts. He writes affectionately as a long time friend/associate of Day (I think he describes her somewhere as his spiritual mentor), but at the same time creates an honest, critical portrait using his backgound in psychiatry to plumb her motivation.
The narration style is dry, but appropriate for a bio, I think.
This biography lends itself very much to listening aloud, as much of it consists of long quotes transcribed directly from Cole's interviews with Dorothy Day. You feel that you are sitting in on a very interesting conversation, rather than listening to a book. Day herself pulls quotes from literature, the Bible, people she has encountered, her own writings, especially The Long Loneliness. Day also reflects much on her life experiences, retelling anecdoctal stories and adding her philosophical and theological reflections. The book is organized into long chapters that explore different themes and areas of Day's life. The biographer sometimes probes for meaning in the questions he asks, or he reflects upon his own biases, but he doesn't bother trying to interpret Day's words too much, but rather allows Day to speak for herself and leaves the reader to discern and question. We are invited to grapple with the same questions to which Day spent her life seeking answers.
This was my first book about Dorothy and I wish I had read her works first. He recounts much of her history, but with too much commentary for someone who is unfamiliar with her works.
What struck me most about this book was how often Robert seemed disappointed that she wouldn't engage politically as her pre- conversion atheist and communist/socialist friends were doing. I had the sense that while he admired her convictions to her faith, that he was always shaking his head wondering how much devotion had been wasted on the Catholic Church, on Jesus and on her localism approach. I get the sense that many people attempt to project in her their own version of politics and yet she rebuffed them focused back on her new live Jesus.
I recently went with my small faith group to serve dinner at a Catholic worker house. We toured the facility and learned a bit about Dorothy Day and I was intrigued. I recently read My Life with the Saints by James Martin and he had devoted a chapter to her. I wanted to listen to her autobiography, but could not find it anywhere on audio. So I found this book and listened to it. I really enjoyed learning how she married her political action to her Catholic faith. I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about Dorothy Day.
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