A Private History of Awe by Scott Russell Sanders

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An original and searching memoir from "one of America's finest essayists" (Phillip Lopate)

When Scott Russell Sanders was four, his father held him in his arms during a thunderstorm, and he felt awe--"the tingle of a power that surges through bone and rain and everything." He says, "The search for communion with this power has run like a bright thread through all my days." A Private History of Awe is an account of this search, told as a series of awe-inspiring episodes: his early memory of watching a fire with his father; his attraction to the solemn cadences of the Bible despite his frustration with Sunday-school religion; his discovery of books and the body; his mounting opposition to the Vietnam War and all forms of violence; his decision to leave behind the university life of Oxford and Harvard and return to Indiana, where three generations of his family have put down roots. In many ways, this is the story of a generation's passage through the 1960s--from innocence to experience, from euphoria to disillusionment. But Sanders has found a language that captures the transcendence of ordinary lives while never reducing them to formula. In his hands, the pattern of American boyhood that was made classic by writers from Mark Twain to Tobias Wolff is given a powerful new charge.


About Scott Russell Sanders

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Scott Russell Sanders is Distinguished Professor of English at Indiana University. His other books include Writing from the Center (1995), Terrarium (1996), and (with Will Counts and James H. Madison) Bloomington Past and Present (2002), all published by IU Press, as well as Hunting for Hope: A Father’s Journeys (1999) and The Force of Spirit (2000). He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.
Published May 15, 2007 by North Point Press. 336 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs. Non-fiction

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Sanders responds with awe to the forces of nature (his text begins and ends with a thunderstorm), and he believes that love is how humans connect to them.

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Publishers Weekly

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Sanders attempts to transform what is in many ways a typical baby boomer experience—adolescence in the shadow of the cold war, a struggle with faith in college, conscientious objection to the war in Vietnam—into something archetypal, and very nearly succeeds.

Oct 31 2005 | Read Full Review of A Private History of Awe

Spirituality & Practice

In Hunting for Hope: A Father's Journey, Scott Russell Sanders, father of two and a teacher, presents his reasons for being hopeful about the future.

Mar 12 2013 | Read Full Review of A Private History of Awe

Project MUSE

It's as succinct a mission statement for an essayist—and, for that matter, for the role of the essayist in general—as any I know, and it encapsulates the defining characteristics of Sanders's own essays: the conscientiousness of his exploration of his life and his world, his insistence on reachin...

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