978-1-58243-121-5 / 9781582431215

A Pelican in the Wilderness: Hermits and Solitaries


Publisher:Counterpoint Press



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About the book:

A celebrated novelist explores the lives and works of those who've followed the call of solitude, from Lao Tzu and the Desert Fathers to Wordsworth, Thoreau, and present-day hermits.

"A Man that studies Happiness must sit alone like a Sparrow upon the House Top, and like a Pelican in the Wilderness." --Thomas Traherne, c. 1699

In her novels, Isabel Colegate has often explored the psychology of the seeker, the person embarked upon a search for understanding, for grace, and for perfect possession of his soul. Now, in her first work of nonfiction, she turns her attention to the archetypal seeker, the "pioneer of the spirit" who hears the call to solitude and, through self-exile from humanity, discovers not only who he or she is but, paradoxically, how to live among others.

The author comes to her material not as scholar, not as a historian, but as a writer who herself has felt the pull of solitude. Her book is a witty, idiosyncratic personal essay that draws upon the lives, examples, and ways of those hermits and solitaries she has come to know, either through their books, books about them, or visits to their places. Some are saints and heroes, others eccentrics and frauds, but all are unforgettable. Those who love Colegate's fiction will find all of its virtues here: historical imagination, quicksilver characterization, and a taste for the ridiculous matched by a power to evoke the sublime.

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