Sometimes these various strands of inquiry resonate in unexpected ways, while at other times they feel cobbled together for the sake of a book-length project, their points of connection forced. But the book is remarkably and consistently willing to confess its fallibilities. It is full of folks who don’t like what Rodriguez is up to or how he’s up to it: a Greek Orthodox monk who questions his umbrella use of the phrase “desert religions,” a woman who tells him he cannot scribble in his notebook at the Western Wall. People challenge Rodriguez’s ideas and his methods; they fail to share his anxieties. The writer E. M. Cioran once made an eloquent case for internal argument — “The reaction against your own thought in itself lends life to thought” — and Rodriguez has effectively outsourced this internal debate, inviting others to vocalize the ways in which he wants to resist his own thinking.
This willingness to embrace disagreement is yet another tribute to the possibilities of resistance. Arguments resist resolution just as the desert resists comfort; refusal doesn’t breed estrangement but its opposite. Which is the search and lesson of this uneasily coherent collection: Wanting isn’t lack but divine taste, the ghost and promise of apples; difficulty and hunger aren’t the absence of connection but its bedfellows.