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A Great Day For ‘Ruthie Leming’ In DC

get-attachment-7 [1]I’m really on top of the world tonight after the day I had in DC with Little Way [2](which is running up the Amazon.com list). The turnout at tonight’s signing was great. I saw so many friends from this blog community. “Hi, I’m JonF from the blog.” “Hi, I’m Joe Marier.” “I’m Caroline Nina.” Et cetera. It was so great, and it really meant the world for me to know that I have so many friends I had only previously “met” online. I saw old friends from elsewhere, too, and two old, old West Feliciana friends who now live in northern Virginia showed up. One of them, Lisa Roberts, was in Mike Leming’s class, and read the book earlier this week. She told the audience (when I asked her to say a few words) that everything in the book about how much Ruthie and Mike loved each other in high school was completely true. She saw it. Everybody knew it.

I rode back into the District with some expatriated Southern friends, and we talked about the book, and our experiences outside of the South. One of them is a pastor. He said that the overwhelming problem he faces in dealing with his congregation of young, highly educated, high-achieving professionals, is an overwhelming sense of dread and anxiety about their own worth, and direction in life. He said that they really, really want to be “good,” but what this culture has taught them about what it means to be good — achieve, achieve, achieve! — is making them completely miserable.

Little Way is the book for them. I mean, look, you expect me to say this, but seriously, listening to him talk about the struggles of his parishioners in this extremely competitive city, I thought, Ruthie has so much to teach yet. 

Back at the hotel, I ran into EWTN’s Raymond Arroyo, who had finished taping his broadcast across the street, and had stopped in to say hi to a friend. Raymond is an old Louisiana friend, and it was great to see him again. He told me he’d read the first couple of chapters, and really liked them. I hope he likes the whole thing, and invites me on to talk about St. Therese of Lisieux and Blessed F.X. Seelos [3], who figure into Ruthie’s story.

I came upstairs to get ready for bed, and saw this terrific comment from Wick Allison [4], on the D Magazine blog, down in Dallas:

Believe me. This is one of the most powerful, emotionally riveting, and spiritual books you will ever have the good fortune to read. To give you an idea of what I think about this book, I bought 60 copies to give away here at D World Headquarters.

Thank you, Wick! And then I saw this [5], from Yuval Levin, writing on National Review Online. I’ve never met Yuval, but he is one of the conservative writers and analysts that I most respect. This took my breath away, and I apologize to K-Lo for quoting the whole thing:

Rod Dreher’s new book, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming [6], which describes the life and tragic death of his sister, is the most powerful book I’ve read in years. It overflows with that inexplicable mix of joy and pain that a writer can only achieve when he is telling the truth. And it speaks especially profoundly to the power of home, and to the mixed blessing that is a life lived among people who know you at least as well as you know yourself. If, like me, you live very far away from the place you were born, you will at times find this book almost unbearably difficult to read. But only almost, because you will also find in it a moving affirmation of the sense that most of us can only discern rarely and vaguely in the bustle of our daily lives—the sense that beyond our petty vanities and momentary worries, beyond arguments and ambitions, beyond even principles and ideals, there is a kind of gentle, caring warmth that is really what makes life worth living. It is expressed through the words and acts of people who rise above themselves, but it seems to come from somewhere deeper. Maybe it’s divine, maybe it isn’t, but it’s real, and it effortlessly makes a mockery of a lot of what goes by the name of moral and political philosophy, and especially of the radical individualism that is so much a part of both the right and the left today. And it’s responsible for almost everything that is very good in our very good world. If I had to define what conservatism ultimately means for me, it would be the preservation and reinforcement of the preconditions for the emergence of that goodness in a society of highly imperfect human beings. But politics is of course only one very crude way to strengthen and protect those preconditions. A powerful story that brings us face to face with that mysterious something can do far more. And this book tells a mighty powerful story. Well worth your while.

The most powerful book I’ve read in years. Yuval Levin — Yuval Levin! — said that. I am so humbled by this review, and grateful. Truth is, it’s not me at work here. It was Ruthie. It was our Mama and Daddy. It was the people of St. Francisville. It was — it is — God. I am just the guy who saw it and lived it and wrote it all down.

Washington area friends — especially readers of this blog — thank you so much for coming out tonight to support Little Way. On to Asheville in the morning. See you at Malaprop’s [7] tomorrow night. And then, on Saturday, to the Eagle Eye [8] in Decatur, Georgia (suburban Atlanta). Check out RodDreher.net [9] for complete tour information.

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15 Comments To "A Great Day For ‘Ruthie Leming’ In DC"

#1 Comment By David Owen On April 12, 2013 @ 12:34 am

Sorry, but the level of self-promotion has now reached a truly ludicrous point — one where TAC has to intervene. A sabbatical is perhaps called for, allowing you to find, once again, some topics that extend beyond the reach of your book. A journey that sought to honor a much-loved sister has blundered close to a point where exploitation will have supplanted homage.

#2 Comment By Rod Dreher On April 12, 2013 @ 12:48 am

Well, whatever. As I keep saying, I’m not blogging all day, but only for a short time daily. I’m on the tour, out all day in bookstores and doing media. I’m away from my normal blogging, because I’m not able to be in front of the computer, and will be for the next week. A lot of what has gone up this week was posts I did in advance that could go up while I was out all day. I’m going to keep track of the best reviews and note the people I meet and conversations I have while I’m on the road. This is a weblog, which is to say, a daily diary. Maybe you’ve read them. If you don’t want to read about Little Way, that’s fine, I understand. You can read other things. Really, you can.

#3 Comment By Charlie On April 12, 2013 @ 1:12 am

Sorry, but the level of self-promotion has now reached a truly ludicrous point

Have a heart, man–can you blame a guy for promoting his own book on his own blog? As someone who has periodically relied solely on my writing to pay my rent, I’m going to have to say that on a scale of 1-10, 1 being “normal writerly economic self-interest” and 10 being “intolerable self-promotion,” Dreher’s operating at about a .95. If he tracks me down via my IP address and throws a brick through my window with his book and an invoice attached, I’ll ratchet that up to a 3.

On a more serious note–if this were a side project with no relationship to the usual content of the blog I’d totally see your point. But the book pretty much covers the core concerns about faith and community that Dreher writes about on the blog. And his descriptions of the book tour and his excerpts from reviews have touched on a lot of the same themes of religion and community as the blog. So I don’t think regular readers, or TAC, could complain that they’re suddenly not getting what they bargained for. Personally, as someone who’s occasionally been an ill-tempered commenter here when talk turns to politics, I’m appreciating the reminder that there are more important things in life.

#4 Comment By JonF On April 12, 2013 @ 5:56 am

Hey, I got an honorary mention 🙂

But oh, I am glad that I don’t have to drive that Washington Beltway every day.

Will start on the book tonight and may comment on the Facebook page as things occur to me.

#5 Comment By Caroline Nina in DC On April 12, 2013 @ 7:28 am

What JonF said about the Beltway–I lucked out getting out to Tyson’s by going through Arlington and McLean, because I-66 is HOV only, but it was a looong drive around the Beltway to Prince George’s on the way home.

But worth every minute. So great to be there, and so many smiles among us all.

#6 Comment By tofudog On April 12, 2013 @ 8:19 am

I was there too but too shy to introduce myself. I’m glad you were happy with the turnout!

My goal this week is to convince my book club to read your book as a group. I’ll let you know if I succeed. And keep plugging the book, really. It’s your blog, and you should be proud of your work and want everyone to read it. I can’t imagine anyone doing anything different.

[Note from Rod: Oh, I’m sorry you didn’t introduce yourself. I hope it was clear that I’m un-scary, and love meeting my readers. Please, readers, if you come to any of the events on the tour, introduce yourselves. As I told some of this blog’s readers I met last night, when I connect a name from this blog with a face, it feels like meeting an old friend. Please be patient with me if I don’t make the connection at first. I’m going on caffeine and adrenaline now (I couldn’t get to sleep last night until well after midnight); I seem really energetic because I’m excited by the book tour, but this mono has my head fairly fogged. — RD]

#7 Comment By Odgie On April 12, 2013 @ 8:20 am

My wife and I were at the Tyson’s reading and really enjoyed it. She had never read any of your work before, but was deeply moved by the passages you selected and the stories you told. Based on her comments, I think you picked up at least one new fan.

#8 Comment By Elizabeth Anne On April 12, 2013 @ 9:01 am

I’m with Charlie. I love hearing about the book and the tour, because it IS topical to the blog.

The problem with writing in public is that some people want you to be their dancing monkey. Ferget ’em, and keep doing what you do.

#9 Comment By SAF On April 12, 2013 @ 11:21 am

My family had a great time last night at the signing (especially our son, the new # 1 fan of your cool glasses.)
I stayed up way too late reading the book, and until I’m finished I just have this to say:
The writing is shockingly? surprisingly? good, much more so than I had anticipated or dared to expect. (I hate for books to break my heart and lowball all expectations accordingly.) You say you don’t read much fiction. It’s unusual, I think, to find such narrative skill in one who primarily reads non-fiction.
Even though I’ve read Crunchy Cons and have followed your blogging since 2006, I’m rather stunned at what you’ve done with The Little Way of Ruthie Leming.

#10 Comment By Helen On April 12, 2013 @ 11:37 am

It was great to meet you last night, Rod! The reading was really enjoyable. I am looking forward to starting the book.

And I third JonF and Caroline Nina — boo on the Beltway!

Maybe some trip to DC you could have a meet-up, Rod. Tell us you’ll be in town and meet you at such and such to say hello. It would be fun to meet other local readers. (We should have all introduced ourselves last night!)

#11 Comment By Ron On April 12, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

Great to meet you last night, Rod, and I enjoyed hearing you read from your book. It is always interesting to meet someone in person who you have known only through writing over the years. Nice to see Rod the in-flesh version! I am looking forward to sitting down to start your book today. Best of luck on the rest of the tour.

#12 Comment By tmatt On April 12, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

This was a great, great evening for the Great Digital Orthodox Conspiracy team. That’s all I will say.

Rod was calm and fine and the audience was very attentive.

#13 Comment By JonF On April 12, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

Actually, circumstance has landed me on the Beltway at rush hour twice in one week– first time was the last stage of my road trip home from Florida last week.
That’s enough to last me quite a while. Our august capital will have to get by without my presence for the foreseeable future. Lord knows our Baltimore Beltway has its moments too, but 495 makes it look like the lonesome prairie.

#14 Comment By Eric K. On April 12, 2013 @ 8:17 pm

Rod,
It was great to meet you (and Terry Mattingly) in person last night. Thanks for making this opportunity available. I’m looking forward to reading the book.

I second what Helen said; a DC-area meet up would be fun if Rod is ever back in town. Even a meet-up of DC-area “crunchy-cons” or blog readers would be enjoyable without Rod. I wish I, too, could have put more names with faces last night.

Oh, and it’s your blog. As long as the higher-ups at TAC are okay with blogging about “Little Way,” keep it up!

#15 Comment By Teri Murphy On April 14, 2013 @ 7:01 am

Rod, I am so glad my buddy Ron brought me to your DC talk. In our circles of Integral theory and “Evolutionary Enlightenment,” most our friends assume that human progress must come as new social forms. Your lovely book supports my suspicion–honed in the Black church– that more often it will look like old forms illumined by a new consciousness, a “new mind.” Here’s my review of your lovely book: [10]

My top fantasy now is bringing a couple of my buds down in a van to hang on that big front porch in St. Francisville sipping ice tea and discussing culture — and then maybe carrying food to the neighbors.