Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective — with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.


A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)

(Copyright © 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

The Holy Quiet of Edgar Sawtelle

March 15, 2009

Tags: healing, fun, review

After 38 weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list and much discussion at Oprah’s Book Club, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle hardly needs more talk. So the end. No more words. No more discussion about this remarkable epic.

However, there’s something else. Something even more remarkable to discuss. It has to do with how many people are choosing to read this 562-page novel. In this day of multi-tasking, twittering, and twaddling, millions of people are setting aside days on end to disappear into the holy quiet birthed by this story.

Last week I was in holy quiet for five days straight. I turned on the computer only long enough to answer emails and check job boards. I didn’t listen to music. I didn’t turn on the TV. I read. I moaned. I read some more. I slept. For five days I was in the altered state of holy quiet evoked by author David Wroblewski. And I imagine that Wroblewski could only have written such a sprawling ode to humanity and Nature with a capital “N” if he, too, was immersed in this place. A place so deep, it feels as if you are at the center of the Earth. It’s a place that births tumultuous inner movements and deafening sounds sans noise. (So fitting that the title character, Edgar, is mute.) Everything you feel reading this book comes from holy quiet.

Yet we spend our lives — we are required to spend our lives — social networking and messaging, maneuvering and strategizing, analyzing and branding, updating our status and downplaying our flaws, which — compared to this place of holy quiet — feels like noise, clutter, filler energy. And it feels, well, silly.

So my question to myself and others is: if so many millions of us long to sink into the holy quiet of this book, why, why, why do we perpetuate the twaddle and clutter? … Or maybe a more realistic question is how to stay immersed in the holy quiet no matter the requisite twaddle and clutter of our times.


  1. April 11, 2009 1:09 PM EDT
    I, too, found myself drawn into an alternate world while reading this book, enjoying the descriptive flourishes, imagining the presence of those dogs (not easy for a cat person). I think the attraction of fiction reading these days is that it is a balance to the rest of our lives. It's not an either-or but a both-and.
    - Mary Ann Brussat
  2. April 11, 2009 4:23 PM EDT
    Good point.
    - Betsy Robinson
  3. May 15, 2009 6:40 PM EDT
    Hi Betsy-- This post caught my eye not because I've read the book (I haven't) but because I just exchanged e-mails with a friend about the appalling (for me) trend in Japan of "cell phone novels". We desperately need long stretches of holy quiet. I'm going to peruse your other posts and see what I can learn about the foggy intersection of literary and spiritual, which is where I want to be, if it exists. Thank you for visiting my blog, and hello fellow traveler to you too!
    - Brent Robison

Selected Works

Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

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