Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home: A Memoir By Natalie Goldberg



A powerful memoir from Natalie Golderg–the woman who changed the way writing is taught in this country–sharing her experience with cancer grounded in her practice of writing and Zen.

Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home begins at the grave of Katagiri Roshi, Natalie’s Zen teacher, in Japan. Twenty years after Katagiri’s death and Natalie’s return to New Mexico, she is permanently settled in Santa Fe with her partner, Yukwan. Except that, as Buddhism teaches us, nothing is permanent. Natalie learns that she has CLL, a potentially fatal form of blood cancer.

For two years, Natalie dances with her cancer–visiting doctor after doctor, attempting treatment after treatment. Nothing helps; in fact, one of the treatments only feeds the cancer and encourages its growth. Then Natalie’s partner, Yukwan discovers that she, too, has cancer–breast cancer–as well as an off-the-charts oncotype score that requires her to have surgery immediately. The cancer twins, as Natalie calls herself and Yukwan, now must each navigate her own illness, carve out her own cancer territory. Each can provide only limited emotional and physical energy for the other. And, somehow, they both need to find a way to stay together, to stay in love–and to heal.

As the title expresses, Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home is so much more than a cancer memoir. Through a direct and grounded narrative, Natalie illuminates a path through illness: that we need to be in love with the lives we have, to embrace the dark and the light in our lives. For Natalie, writing and painting represent the light, and her cancer takes her deeper into her art practices. Balanced with a Zen practice that helps to her face death, this book is a moving meditation on living life in full bloom.

Natalie Goldberg lived in Brooklyn until she was six, when her family moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island, where her father owned the bar the Aero Tavern. From a young age, Goldberg was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Carson McCullers’s The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which she read in ninth grade. She thinks that single book led her eventually to put pen to paper when she was twenty-four years old. She received a BA in English literature from George Washington University and an MA in humanities from St. John’s University.

Goldberg has painted for as long as she has written, and her paintings can be seen in Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World and Top of My Lungs: Poems and Paintings. They can also be viewed at the Ernesto Mayans Gallery on Canyon Road in Sante Fe.

A dedicated teacher, Goldberg has taught writing and literature for the last thirty-five years. She also leads national workshops and retreats, and her schedule can be accessed via her website: nataliegoldberg.com

In 2006, she completed with the filmmaker Mary Feidt a one-hour documentary, Tangled Up in Bob, about Bob Dylan’s childhood on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. The film can be obtained on Amazon or the website tangledupinbob.com.

Goldberg has been a serious Zen practitioner since 1974 and studied with Katagiri Roshi from 1978 to 1984.

Natalie Goldberg reads from her memoir Let the Whole Thundering World Come Home, 8 July 2018, The Bookstore, Lenox, MA.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: