“My Bright Abyss” by W&L Alumnus Christian Wiman '88
“My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer,” the new book by Washington and Lee alumnus Christian Wiman, of the Class of 1988, was released earlier this month and has been garnering lots of media attention.
The winner of a Guggenheim, Christian was diagnosed with Waldenström’s macroglobulinemia but is currently cancer-free after a bone-marrow transplant. The illness is a thread throughout the essays that compose “My Bright Abyss.” Last fall he published an essay that previewed the book in National Review.
Christian has edited Poetry magazine since 2003 but steps down (blogged in January) this summer to join the faculty of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School. He is the author of six previous books.
“My Bright Abyss,” published by Farrar Straus Giroux, is described as a “weighty account of modern faith” in the Wall Street Journal, an “anguished, eloquent meditation on faith” in the Washington Post, and “an exploration of his faith and life in extreme crisis” on National Public Radio.
While Christian’s illness is the common thread that runs throughout the essays that comprise “My Bright Abyss,” Scott Russell Sanders’ review in the Washington Post draws a distinction between Christian’s book and other cancer narratives. “This one,” Sanders writes, “does not dwell on the dramas of therapy, the ups and downs of hope; rather, it uses grave illness to focus on the question that lurks beneath much, if not all, religion: ‘What do you do, what do you say, what in the world are you going to believe in when you are dying?'”
Here is a sampling of national media on Christian’s book (some may require subscriptions):
- Washington Post review by Scott Russell Sanders
- NPR review by Walton Muyumba
- Wall Street Journal review by David Yezzi
- The New York Times review by Dwight Garner
- Q and A in The New York Times
- Cleveland Plain Dealer review by John Repp
- “The Spiritual Autobiography of Christian Wiman” in The Chronicle of Higher Education by Jay Parini
- “Poetry and Spirituality at Death’s Door,” Interview on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook
If you know any W&L alumni who would be great profile subjects, tell us about them! Nominate them for a web profile.