Friday, March 27, 2009

'It not only describes [the process of] healing, but the very essence of sexuality'

The blog of the Polish Catholic newsweekly Tygodnik Powszechny currently features a review by journalist and author Artur Sporniak about the Polish edition of my book The Thrill of the Chaste.

Although Google's automatic English translation of the review is choppy, it looks like Sporniak was prepared to find my book lame because (1) the cover made it look as though it were for teenagers, (2) he assumed it was a product of the American abstinence-ed movement, and (3) I dedicated it to the Virgin Mary and St. Maximilian Kolbe. (Actually, since I didn't want to ruffle feathers at my Protestant U.S. publisher, I left out the "Saint" prefixes in the hope that it would look like I was simply dedicating the book to friends. It says, "To Mary and Maximilian, with gratitude for your inspiring examples and prayers.")

Thankfully, Sporniak seems to have gotten a pleasant surprise—or, rather, a shock. "Actually, it is difficult to write about this book—its authenticity shocks," he writes. "You have to read it."

UPDATE: Polish reader Mary F. has sent me her own translation of parts of Sporniak's review, which is clearer than Google's translation. Here are a couple of choice quotes:

Do you remember when I wrote about Nouwen? In the book 'Intimacy' he presents conversion as a transition from the phobic reflex of capturing of and gaining power over another person to[wards] spiritual intimacy that makes us helpless before God and the other person. Only in the area of this intimate vulnerability/ helplessness and sincerity might happen great things : love, forgiveness, death and resurrection. D. E. relates/ describes exactly such 'transition', thus becoming completely vulnerable/ helpless before ... the reader. This is hard to compare with anything. Only "Confessions" [of St. Augustine] comes to mind.

... I was once writing that sex addicts, when they are genuinely becoming healthy, through their own suffering and negative experiences, have insight into the pure essence of sexuality. "Thrill of the Chaste deals exactly with this [issue\. It not only describes [the process of] healing, but the very essence of sexuality.
I would not say that negative experiences in and of themselves produce wisdom; rather, in the words of Mark Shea, "Sin makes you stupid." But if Sporniak is saying that one can sense the sacredness of a human faculty by how badly it goes wrong when it is misused, he is right on the money. Corruptio optimi pessima; the corruption of the best things are the worst things.

Towards the end of the review, Sporniak writes, "I will not summarize this book in detail; it is better to read it yourself." How wonderful! I hope his readers take his advice, and that they come to hear me speak in Poland next month.