Some writing delivers information, other writing delivers entertainment. Then there is the exceptional kind of writing that delivers what Nabakov describes as the "indescribable tingle of the spine." This kind of writing links the writer and the reader in a mysterious way. My friend Jill Noel Kandel's essay reprinted in The Best Spiritual Writing 2012 is this kind of writing. "Burial Cloth Removed," first published in River Teeth, takes you to Zambia, where Kandel and her husband lived for 6 of their 10 years overseas, and to Minnesota, where she lives now and from where she is uncovering those years in Zambia that "lie hidden." About Zambia Kandel writes, "Color the borders of Zambia, fill them in with yellow or pink on a map of Africa, and you will see a butterfly. I lived in the western wing." I found this map of Zambia, black and white, ready to be colored in and I'm tempted to pull out my color pencils. You can read the first paragraph of her essay here.
Another essay not to miss in this volume of BSW is the "Foreword" by editor Philip Zaleski. He proposes an adaptation of Balthasar's la théologie a genoux or kneeling theology to describe what should be the practice of the spiritual artist: l'art a genoux, or kneeling art.
I'm just starting to dig into this new volume of BSW and will try to highlight some other pieces in coming weeks.
An essay of mine, "Spinning and Being Spun," originally published in Comment magazine, is listed in the back of the volume under "Other Notable Spiritual Writing of the Year." That essay is now online and you can read it by clicking the hyperlinked title.