There are some writers who impress. There are others who leave a lasting impression. For me, the Australian writer Terry Monagle is the latter.
At the time of writing the book Claws of Fire, Monagle was dying. When originally diagnosed, he was told he could expect around three years more. He calculated this to be ‘about 1000 sleeps.’ At the time the book was published, those 1000 sleeps had passed. In 2008, death finally came.
Similar to his earlier Fragments: Moments of Intimacy (a book that resonates deeply for me), Claws for Fire is more journal than story, more a gathering of reflections than a thesis–poetry and prose mingled together. Mongale writes honestly, beautifully, intimately. That said, this book is far from an easy read. It’s certainly not a page turner. It takes time … in my case some months of picking up and putting aside. Sometimes it’s just too much.
For me, this book is spiritual writing at its best. I say ‘for me’, because I know that some others who read Monagle’s earlier Fragments at my prompting failed to see in it what I did. Like relationships, books are always a unique encounter … never the same twice. Still, for me Monagle’s writing is keenly personal, intelligent, never ‘preachy’ or ‘churchy’ but compelling, calling me to live more deeply while affirming my life where and as it is.
Granted, part of what makes Monagle’s writing so immediate to me is its place. Monagle lived here in Melbourne, in Kensington. He wrote of places, cafes and street corners that I know. What’s more, he found God there, as sure and as profoundly as God is anywhere else. I like that.