Book Review ~ Short Trip to the Edge

Several months ago, shortly after my tonsure into the Orthodox Monastic Life, a very good priest friend of mine gave me a book about a poet who went on a search to Mount Athos, the Holy Island off the coast of Greece.
Scott Cairns takes his readers on the journey with him as he seeks to find a spiritual father on the Holy Mountain to help him with the Jesus Prayer.  Short Trip to the Edge is the book he wrote and the book  my priest friend gave me.

If you are unfamiliar with the Holy Mountain this would be a great book to start with.  Professor Cairns describes the monasteries, some of which have existed since the early days of Christianity, so explicitly it makes you feel like to are trekking the mountain roads with him.  You can almost smell the incense during the Orthros Services and if you listen close you can hear the monks chanting.

This book is not a theological work or a work on the necessity of prayer but is one man’s search of enlightenment on the Holy Mountain.  The monks and lay people he meets take him on his own journey as he takes the reader on his.  The realization is that the search continues on and never really comes to an end.  ones does not need to travel to the Holy Mountain to find a spiritual father but it is a good place to start.

The book is an easy read and is responsible for many sleepless nights as I could not put this book down as each page I turned was another step on the paths of the Holy Mountain.  I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is in search of anything.

Scott Cairns teaches modern and contemporary American literature and creative writing at the University of Missouri. He is an accomplished poet whose writing has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Books & Culture, and Image. He was recently named a Guggenheim Fellow.

Dr. Cairns hosts a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio called Flesh Becomes Word where he reads his poetry and that of other Orthodox poets.
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