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Running to the Mountain: A Journey of Faith and Change Paperback – 1 Mar 2000
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Praise for A Dog Year"A great book that dog lovers will definitely enjoy."
-Booklist "The story line of Katz's latest book can be summed up very simply-two dogs die and two new ones join the family
but its charm comes from an intricate blend of witty anecdote and touching reflection."
-Publishers Weekly "A surfeit of tail-wagging, face-licking love."
-Kirkus Reviews Praise for Running to the Mountain "A wonderful book -- personal, moving, funny... to call a book a perfect gift always seems slightly patronizing, but I already have a long list of names -- yes aging baby boomers -- I'm intending to give Running to the Mountain."
"A funny, moving, and triumphant voyage of the soul... Katz finds faith not by running away, but by realizing that spiritual sustenance comes from within -- from the decency with which we handle our roles as spouses, parents, and friends."
"You'll love this book.... In the end, we admire Katz, not for the spiritual grace that he seeks but for the grace he finds: the grace of fatherhood, husbandhood, of tending fully to those who depend on him to be a source of stability in their world."
"Candid and inspiring... Katz has much to be proud of: he faced himself, he rearranged himself, and he came back to write movingly of the experience."
-Washington Post Book World
Praise for Geeks: How Two Lost Boys Rode the Internet Out of Idaho
"In Geeks, Katz displays a deft reporter's touch and shows us the geek truth, rather than simply telling us about it.... Too often, writing about the on-line world lacks emotional punch, but Katz's obvious love for his 'lost boys' gives his narrative a rich taste."
-New York Times Book Review
"Geeks is a story of triumph, friendship, love, and above all, about being human and reaching for dreams in a hard-wired world."
"A touching page-turner about social outcasts using technology to wriggle free of dead-end lives."
-U.S. News & World Report
"An uplifting and hugely compassionate book."
A noted author and columnist offers a personal, introspective look at one man's search for meaning and change as he approaches fifty, explaining how he found a way to redefine himself, learn to appreciate nature and solitude, and use that solitude as a source of inspiration. Reprint.See all Product description
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Armed with armfuls of Merton material, an IBM powerbook, a cellular phone, 100 channels of media noise, and some old Glenlivet, he discovers rural life lacks the luxuries, conveniences, and the kind of instant gratification of life he has come to expect in that suffocating suburban stalag he's sentenced in by living in New Jersey. So where's the nearest Starbucks, anyway, buddy?
Lightning strikes a tree near his house and a neighbor has to call him on the phone to warn him to go inside! Wow! A strong winter wind blows and shakes the house and he suddenly discovers the "MEANING" of his own spirituality. Give me a break. Please don't misunderstand me- I liked the book for what it is. But, while the book is eminently worth reading, it mistakes frustration with privation, nuisance with adventure, and upper middle class financial juggling with economic disaster.
Most simply put, this is just an urban book, written by an urban author full of what sometime seem to be arrogant urban assumptions, someone who is just beginning his journey toward any real country consciousness. Placing this slim volume alongside real rural adventures like "Edges of the Earth", or "Living the Good Life' makes this painfully obvious.
Mr. Katz is a skilled and talented writer, and I enjoyed his tall tale. One gets the sense there is a warm and emotionally valuable human being writing in there. Yet one finishes the book hoping other urbanites don't mistake this loosely threaded-together 'adventure' as a Thoreau-like return to nature (although both Jon and Henry David did return home whenever things got a little rough in the woods). Rural life is much more complicated and requires a passle more of self-reliance and endurance than is evidenced here. Most of us living in the country cannot simply "buy" our way out of our difficulties the way Mr. Katz describes.
Thus, the real shortcoming of the book stems from a shortcoming Mr. Katz cannot avoid, namely his own urban-based consciousness. After fifteen years spent living on the cusp between the urban and rural worlds and learning the lessons of how to live a rural lifestyle, I understand it takes years to drown out one's need for constant, anxious busyness and goal-orientation that one carries around as a result of immersion in an urban environment. Mr. Katz just doen't allow enough time to lose all the noise before whipping out his power book to describe the life and times abroad in the wild wilderness. Natty Bumpo, stand aside. No time to waste. Print out the manuscript and mail it off to meet the schedule. Rural life should be so easy to understand and capture...
Buy the book, by all means. Read it. But don't mistake it for anything like a return to nature or an effort to seriously get back to the kind of spiritual simplicity a meaningful rural life requires. I fear a boatload of ambitious New York writers are on their way up to grab an old cottage to write the great American novel. Hope they don't freeze to death because they don't know any of the survival basics, like how to start a damned wood fire, or ordering the firewood early enough that it can dry and become 'seasoned' enough to light and burn. Hope you continue to season in your country skills, as well, Jon. Glad you survived your first year or so, and good luck in your further adventures. Anyone reading your book will agree you've got a lot of heart.
From a Jewish background Katz admits he is not a religious man and yet he is strongly attracted to the writings of Thomas Merton. As a student he wrote to Merton after having read The Seven Storey Mountain and his attraction to Merton's life and work continued until he moved to a temporary "hermitage" of his own taking with him Merton's journals, along with other books by and about him. Like Merton in his journals Katz was obsessed with trying to discover how to live and, more importantly, how to live in the modern world where change and development have mushroomed in the years since Merton's death.
Katz asks some searching questions about what spirituality is, where it can be found and how it connects with everyday life. He debates with Merton, questions him, disagrees with him and ultimately finds realistic answers to his questions. At times Katz experience of loneliness and solitude almost parallels Merton's experience, attempting to remove himself from life on the one hand whilst on the other feverishly trying to stay involved. He also found his days echoed Merton's including "contemplation, simplicity, solitude, and plenty of hard work" along with lessons in humility as Katz, impractical, bookish and a through and through city dweller, came to terms with his new environment.
Unlike Merton Katz is right up-to-date with new technology, current affairs and the latest films. Having worked for CBS, had moderate success as a writer and been involved with writing for the internet he is no technophobe. As Merton joked of taking asbestos paper with him to continue writing in purgatory Katz muses about being discovered dead slumped over his computer keyboard. Like Merton though, Katz questions the place of technology and, in a chapter entitled "Primestar and Frankenstein," having had a satellite dish erected at his mountain retreat he tackles questions relating to technology and whether the human mind can "master what the human mind has made?" (167.) He concludes affirmatively saying: "I can go on-line and still read The Seven Storey Mountain. My daughter can watch Seinfeld and still be a moral being prepared for the world. I can walk in the woods but also drive to the movies. I can go to a mountaintop and there, after long summer days of simplicity and thoughtfulness, click on Primestar." (169.)
Running to the Mountain contains a number of factual errors about Merton and there were a number of times when I felt Katz's interpretation and understanding of Merton was coloured to a great extent by his reliance on Monica Furlong's biography of Merton. There were times when Katz did not seem to understand the meaning of monastic life, the freely taken vows or the monk's relationship to his abbot even describing Dom James Fox in Furlongesque terms as Merton's "chief tormentor." 177. Katz also suggests that "the real tragedy of Thomas Merton...was that he made spirituality seem inaccessible even while exploring it so ceaselessly and courageously himself" (194.) a view Merton's continuing popularity would belie.
These reservations aside I think that many readers of Thomas Merton will appreciate Katz's account of his journey accompanied by Merton. I am sure it will parallel their own experience of reading Merton and walking with him on their journey through life. It is a well written book, stimulating, challenging and very human. As Katz undergoes his journey the questions he asks are all related to his everyday experience and ultimately it is to this experience that he returns, the reality of his family, urban life in New Jersey and to earning a living. His time in solitude serves him as a secular retreat from where he can take stock and return refreshed and invigorated to his everyday life.
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