Giving & Receiving


Saul Bellow once said that “a writer is a reader moved to emulation.”  This is an apt description of my own journey from a voracious reader of books of my choosing to a critical reader of books of my professors’ choosing, to a writer.  It was, I now believe, an inevitable transformation.

When I was asked by the publisher at Fons Vitae to write a review of Thomas Block’s Shalom/Salaam: A Story of Mystical Fraternity, I felt a bit unsteady on my feet— and not only because we were ascending a narrow staircase from her office.  But I consoled myself with the thought that if Gray was asking me to do this she must believe that I am capable.  At first, I thought the review would be a gift that I delivered.  I soon realized that the opportunity to practice the craft of writing was actually a gift that I had received.

Anyone who has tried to write with a deadline and word limitation knows the challenge that I faced.  Another, perhaps self-imposed challenge was writing an artful critique that would reflect favorably on both the author of the book and the author of the review.  As I read, I filled the book with Post-its and my journal with barely-legible notes. I was engrossed by the dual task of giving and receiving. Hours slipped away as I sat at my desk, falling in love with my own turn-of-phrase, inspired by what I described as Tom’s “carefully drawn masterpiece.”  Good writing emerges from good reading.

Since submitting the book review nearly five months ago, I have been writing every day.  A friend asked me if I ever sleep.  I admit that I often fall short of the hours required for rejuvenating my brain.  Still, when I dream of words floating above my head until they are selected to alight on the page, I awake with a sense of calm; and my feet are steady on the staircase.

Recommended Summer Reading: Parabola, Summer 2001 Issue: Giving & Receiving.



Comments (5)

Alas, we cannot read your review online. But I love what you wrote about writing (and sleep) 🙂

I believe I can say: “Your writing is gift we’ve received”!
Thank you for it!

Thank you, both, for the kind words. Corey-Jan, I will be happy to email you a copy of the review. I was almost sure that I had asked you to proofread it before submission…

Actually, I am happy to say that you most certainly can read the review online, here:
And scroll down to the fourth review. Many thanks, Pamela Gottfried! Tom

Thanks, Tom! I hadn’t found it online, despite my repeated visits to Parabola’s website. I hope you get a boost in sales from the review, and I hope you are having a productive spring.

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