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"Leo Tolstoy and the Origins of Spiritual Memoir"

Thomas Larson

Los Angeles Review of Books

January 13, 2017



Spirituality Book Print E-mail


Praise for Spirituality and the Writer: A Personal Inquiry

“In Spirituality and the Writer, Thomas Larson offers an astute examination of the craft and artistry needed to successfully render faith, doubt, and transcendent experience onto the page. From Thomas Merton to Annie Dillard, Cheryl Strayed to Mother Teresa, Larson defines the genre of spiritual memoir broadly, creating a powerful resource for writers, teachers, students, and anyone with an interest in spirit-seeking literature. Larson’s captivating book is both a toolbox and an inspiration.”

—Dinty W. Moore, author of The Mindful Writer

“Reading Spirituality and the Writer is like dream-walking in the tracks of a master guide to the sublime. Larson’s inquiry into the realm of authentic spiritual writing creates a tableau of the erudite, the creative, and the spiritual. Not only will I return to this book but to every work that Larson plumbs through his expansive lens of the spiritual writer and the unmoored soul.”

—Kathryn Winograd, author of Phantom Canyon: Essays of Reclamation

“Thomas Larson is a first-rate scholar and writer. Spirituality and the Writer is a book for anyone interested in spiritual writing, as well as for anyone wishing to live a well-considered life.”

—Lee Martin, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Bright Forever


Today, the surprisingly elastic form of the memoir embraces subjects that include dying, illness, loss, relationships, and self-awareness. Writing to reveal the inner self—the pilgrimage into one’s spiritual and/or religious nature—is a primary calling. Contemporary memoirists are exploring this field with innovative storytelling, rigorous craft, and new styles of confessional authorship. Now, Thomas Larson brings his expertise as a critic, reader, and teacher to the boldly evolving and improvisatory world of spiritual literature.

In his book-length essay Spirituality and the Writer, Larson surveys the literary insights of authors old and new who have shaped religious autobiography and spiritual memoir—from Augustine to Thomas Merton, from Peter Matthiessen to Cheryl Strayed. He holds them to an exacting standard: they must render transcendent experience in the writing itself. Only when the writer’s craft prevails can the fleeting and profound personal truths of the spirit be captured. Like its predecessor, Larson’s The Memoir and the Memoirist, Spirituality and the Writer will find a home in writing classrooms and book groups, and be a resource for students, teachers, and writers who seek guidance with exploring their spiritual lives.

Mr. Larson is available to teach workshops on "Writing the Spiritual Memoir" as well as to speak/teach at writers' conferences, do one-on-one interviews on podcasts and stage, give readings, and participate on panels devoted to religious and spiritual authorship.

Please contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for scheduling and fees.