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Forum Book Club - 2 - To the Field of Stars (Kevin Codd)

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Here is the book chosen from our list to be the next one for discussion - To the Field of Stars: A pilgrim's journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd.

Kevin Codd is a Roman Catholic priest who describes his 2003 Camino from SJPP to Santiago. He is an American, but resident in Belgium at that time. Although I am neither a believer nor a Catholic, I do find it interesting to read about those who approach life and the Camino from a different perspective. This is an articulate and intelligent account of his experience. There is no focus on religion - that is just background information - and I am enjoying reading it. He describes his encounters and frustrations with other pilgrims very well, and the need to adjust his own attitudes.

I'll need to wait until I finish (I'm only 80% along) before I can make a generalized assessment.

Once I finish the book, I am intrigued enough to read his follow-up actions and thoughts. His blog at kcodd.blogspot.com apparently describes his subsequent two journeys to complete the journey from his home in Belgium to Santiago. He has also published another book, which is mentioned on that blog.

So, I look forward to all other comments and questions about this book. Here are a couple of questions:
  1. Why did Codd think he was "old" when he was only in his 50s? (I don't really expect an answer. "Old" is always 10 years older than one is, and it is a moving target.) He referred to his advanced age several times.
  2. What makes some camino memoirs (e.g. this one) much more readable than many other first-person accounts written by non-professional writers?
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
(2009): Camino Frances
(2011): Sevilla-Salamanca, VdlP
(2012): Salamanca-SdC, VdlP
(2014): SJpdP-Astorga
(2015): Astorga-SdC
(2016) May Pamplona-Moratinos; Sept.:Burgos-SdC
(2016): August/Sept: Camino San Olav (Burgos-Covarubbias), Burgos-Sarria
(2017): May: Portuguese; Sept: Pamplona-SdC
His book is fantastic/beautiful, as is his follow-up: To the Field of Stars - And Beyond.
 
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jl

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances('05, '07), Aragonese ('05), del Norte / Primitivo ('09), Via Tolosana (Toulouse '05), Via Podiensis (Le Puy '07), Via Lemovicensis (Troyes '09), VF ('12), Winter Camino ('13/'14) Cammino d'Assisi ('14) Jakobseweg (Leipzig - Paris '15) San Salvador/Norte ('15) Ignaciano ('16) Invierno ('16)
I regularly quote a portion of the introduction to this book, both in writing and in speeches, because to me it sums up just how the camino captivates us, often quite unwittingly. I actually got permission from Kevin to quote this as part of my introduction to a book of pilgrim quotes and photos that I have collated and that we often give as a gift to speakers etc. It is literate, lovely words strung together like pearls, expressive, and fluent. Sorry it is a long quote, but it would be silly not to put it all there.

"I am about to share here a story about stars at dance. May I advise you to exercise a modicum of caution in attending to what follows, for the story of stars dancing over a field in a faraway land may so draw you away from the ordinary business of daily life that you find yourself, quite to your surprise, in a new world of unexpected adventures and remarkable people and some very profound mysteries. If this should happen to you, if the story of stars playing above the dusty bones of an old saint should capture you in its strange field of gravity, it may well draw you out of your house, down the street, and out of town. And if you leave home to see these stars cavort for yourself it will surely change you. You will come to see that which was previously unseen. You will witness miracles. You will, in the end, find yourself coming to know what is most true about these brief lives we have been given to live out on this tender earth."
 
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NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Words, beautifully strung together.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2015, 2017, 2019) and plans for 2021 (Sept, Oct)
"The "Field of Stars" was one of the first two books I read about the Camino a few years prior to my retirement (2014) as I was contemplating hiking the camino. The other one, was of course John Brierley's "Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago." Both were captivating and complemented each other. Codd's book offered emotional and spiritual sustenance, and Brierley's book offered factual and practical tips for a successful camino. I loved them both and these two books created an insatiable appetite to learn all I could about the camino experience. (Thanks also to the Camino Forum for providing daily nuggets!). My wife and I have now hiked three caminos and are looking forward to our fourth this fall. Bob
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
So, I look forward to all other comments and questions about this book. Here are a couple of questions:
  1. Why did Codd think he was "old" when he was only in his 50s? (I don't really expect an answer. "Old" is always 10 years older than one is, and it is a moving target.) He referred to his advanced age several times.
  2. What makes some camino memoirs (e.g. this one) much more readable than many other first-person accounts written by non-professional writers?
I think this was one of the first Camino memoirs I acquired and read so, although I've read it completely, it has been a while. I've started reading it again but still have a ways to go. That schedule for the first four books is intense!

To make a beginning attempt at your two questions:

1. In addition to old being a question of how you feel and see yourself, I wonder if there is something else at play. There are a lot of elements of the modern Camino travelling style that we associate with a younger travelling crowd. I know that for me, backpacking across Europe, living out of a backpack, sleeping in hostel dorms, and hanging out with an international crowd of fellow-travellers is something I tend to associate with the travel of my teens and twenties. Older people had suitcases and slept in hotels. Of course, there were exceptions but that was how we saw it. Maybe travelling this way in his 50s he felt old for the style of travel he was doing.

2. I think there are a couple of factors at play. One is that Caminos tend to come in with many of the elements that go into a good narrative: a journey out of the ordinary, hardships faced, lessons learned, personal growth, a return to the ordinary changed in some way by the experience. They have the beginning, middle and end it is otherwise sometimes hard to find in real life. That supports the non-professional author in telling a good story. Another factor that may come into play (for me at least) is that no story is experienced as a one-way interaction. The writer provides the words but we turn it into the experience. When I read a Camino memoir it is enriched by my memories of my own experiences.This can help turn a less readable account into a more readable one.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I'll need to wait until I finish (I'm only 80% along) before I can make a generalized assessment.
I finished it last night. While I still agree the book was well written, humble and interesting, I did not "enjoy" the last part so much. As a more experienced pilgrim now, I found the description of the pilgrim family dynamics and pressure, the August heat, the crowds and urgency to reach Santiago, to be disturbing. The family and the celebratory highs were too stressful and exhausting. Perhaps a new pilgrim who hasn't walked, will find this compelling in a positive way - perhaps I would have - but now that I've been through the trade-offs, I just wanted Codd to ditch the "pilgrim family" and walk into Santiago on his own or with just one or 2 other people.

Nevertheless, I will go on to read his blog and his new book, to see how he reflects on it, years later.
There are a lot of elements of the modern Camino travelling style that we associate with a younger travelling crowd.
Yes, and I think we old people tend to spend too much time looking at ourselves, how we conform, and how others see us. I know I do, and probably that was part of Codd's process of discovery. (Now that I think about it, this is something we tend to do at all stages of life.)

In 2016, my camino with my sister-in-law ended early (for various reasons) and we found ourselves in Spain, with our camino backpacks and 2 weeks free time. We abandoned our sleeping bags to reduce the bulk, and set off for 2 weeks of backpacking around Spain. It was fabulous fun, and we mostly managed to forget our ages and just be ourselves. We had the best of all ages - the freedom and curiosity of youth, and the credit cards of old age.
no story is experienced as a one-way interaction.
Yes, maybe this is what many amateur authors neglect. They are busy telling their story, without recognizing and nourishing the reader.
 
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Camino Norte and Frances Sept 6 - Oct 11, 2016
Here is the book chosen from our list to be the next one for discussion - To the Field of Stars: A pilgrim's journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd.

Kevin Codd is a Roman Catholic priest who describes his 2003 Camino from SJPP to Santiago. He is an American, but resident in Belgium at that time. Although I am neither a believer nor a Catholic, I do find it interesting to read about those who approach life and the Camino from a different perspective. This is an articulate and intelligent account of his experience. There is no focus on religion - that is just background information - and I am enjoying reading it. He describes his encounters and frustrations with other pilgrims very well, and the need to adjust his own attitudes.

I'll need to wait until I finish (I'm only 80% along) before I can make a generalized assessment.

Once I finish the book, I am intrigued enough to read his follow-up actions and thoughts. His blog at kcodd.blogspot.com apparently describes his subsequent two journeys to complete the journey from his home in Belgium to Santiago. He has also published another book, which is mentioned on that blog.

So, I look forward to all other comments and questions about this book. Here are a couple of questions:
  1. Why did Codd think he was "old" when he was only in his 50s? (I don't really expect an answer. "Old" is always 10 years older than one is, and it is a moving target.) He referred to his advanced age several times.
  2. What makes some camino memoirs (e.g. this one) much more readable than many other first-person accounts written by non-professional writers?
I am so glad as I already have that book.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Norte and Frances Sept 6 - Oct 11, 2016
Here is the book chosen from our list to be the next one for discussion - To the Field of Stars: A pilgrim's journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd.

Kevin Codd is a Roman Catholic priest who describes his 2003 Camino from SJPP to Santiago. He is an American, but resident in Belgium at that time. Although I am neither a believer nor a Catholic, I do find it interesting to read about those who approach life and the Camino from a different perspective. This is an articulate and intelligent account of his experience. There is no focus on religion - that is just background information - and I am enjoying reading it. He describes his encounters and frustrations with other pilgrims very well, and the need to adjust his own attitudes.

I'll need to wait until I finish (I'm only 80% along) before I can make a generalized assessment.

Once I finish the book, I am intrigued enough to read his follow-up actions and thoughts. His blog at kcodd.blogspot.com apparently describes his subsequent two journeys to complete the journey from his home in Belgium to Santiago. He has also published another book, which is mentioned on that blog.

So, I look forward to all other comments and questions about this book. Here are a couple of questions:
  1. Why did Codd think he was "old" when he was only in his 50s? (I don't really expect an answer. "Old" is always 10 years older than one is, and it is a moving target.) He referred to his advanced age several times.
  2. What makes some camino memoirs (e.g. this one) much more readable than many other first-person accounts written by non-professional writers?
When and how do we meet to discuss this book_
 
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David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
I'm still not through this book on my second read-through (my first was, I think, several years ago when I was just starting to read this genre). I've just passed the day he walked into Carrion de los Condes, which coincidentally was the same day I walked into Carrion de los Condes in 2016 with my son (July 25th, my son's birthday).

There were a couple of observations he made in that chapter that really stood out to me. They aren't thoughts I had while on Camino. Nevertheless, they rang true to me:

"What a contrast between that reality and the reality of life on this camino where fear is almost completely absent and people are extraordinarily generous and humble and able to form families and communities based on affection and love."

We talk about being in a "camino bubble" and of leaving the everyday world behind. I hadn't thought to what extent we leave many of our fears behind with them, and how that might affect the self we are able to express while on Camino.

"Important as it is, the comfort of cameraderie in the end is not the goal; this is, after all, not a permanent city we build here."

To me this speaks to the balance in the Camino with the route and the destination, with the attachments we form on the route and how we need to let go, with what stays behind on the Camino and what we carry forward after we leave Santiago.
 

CJ Williams

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Via Turonense (1995)
Camino Francés (1996; 1999; 2001; 2005; 2008; 2011)
Camino Aragonés (2000)
I have just purchased the book and will be sitting down to start reading it this evening. It has been a long time since I have read any persona accounts of the pilgrimage to Santiago, and I do mean a long time. the handful of books of this type I have were published between 1987 and 1994, before I made my first pilgrimage in 1995. It was a different experience then, to be sure.

Based on C clearly's suggestion in the thread starter, and the positive reactions above, I decided to give this one a try in the hopes of having some lighter, Camino-centered, spiritual reading to contrast the weightier books on my Lenten reading plan. :)
 

gns

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
Here is the book chosen from our list to be the next one for discussion - To the Field of Stars: A pilgrim's journey to Santiago de Compostela, by Kevin A. Codd.

Kevin Codd is a Roman Catholic priest who describes his 2003 Camino from SJPP to Santiago. He is an American, but resident in Belgium at that time. Although I am neither a believer nor a Catholic, I do find it interesting to read about those who approach life and the Camino from a different perspective. This is an articulate and intelligent account of his experience. There is no focus on religion - that is just background information - and I am enjoying reading it. He describes his encounters and frustrations with other pilgrims very well, and the need to adjust his own attitudes.

I'll need to wait until I finish (I'm only 80% along) before I can make a generalized assessment.

Once I finish the book, I am intrigued enough to read his follow-up actions and thoughts. His blog at kcodd.blogspot.com apparently describes his subsequent two journeys to complete the journey from his home in Belgium to Santiago. He has also published another book, which is mentioned on that blog.

So, I look forward to all other comments and questions about this book. Here are a couple of questions:
  1. Why did Codd think he was "old" when he was only in his 50s? (I don't really expect an answer. "Old" is always 10 years older than one is, and it is a moving target.) He referred to his advanced age several times.
  2. What makes some camino memoirs (e.g. this one) much more readable than many other first-person accounts written by non-professional writers?
I have just finished reading this in the kindle edition.

Having walked the Camino Frances last Summer I was able to follow the narrative of the Camino comfortably and it generally made sense.

One feature which I found interesting was the expression of his inner religious life through observance whilst walking and in relation to the various statues and icons (do Catholics use this term?) he encounters in churches along the way. As someone who has never believed it was interesting to have this articulated. This paralleled what I took to be one of the main motivations for the author's camino which was his anxiety at the loss of Catholic vocation in the modern world, reflected in the uncertain future of his seminary (which I infer is due to a lack of new ordinands leading to pressure from the USA). He sees this uncertainty replicated in the various religious houses supporting peregrinos with their devoted but aging members. His concerns for the church also express themselves in resentment towards some priests along the way who he finds either indifferent or cynical.

He is also haunted by a sense of his own failures, contrasting a failed episode of missionary work in Latin America with courageous martyrdom of other priests he learns about along the way. We luckily do not have to endure an actual crisis of faith but this aspect of the book did feel close to self-loathing at times.

The peregrinos and the Spain they cross seem in many ways to belong to another age, even though it is less than 20 years ago. The modern commercial infrastructure along the way seems almost absent and the country seems somnolent. Encounters with traffic seem to serve mainly as narrative devices as do many of the encounters with his fellow pilgrims.

In an afterword Father Codd sets out how he has constructed the narrative, saying it is based on his own memory and journals which are naturally incomplete. I think he is being mildly disingenuous here as I felt the narrative was at least partly organised to allow expression of his own concerns and also more positively the message which he wishes to convey to his fellow Catholics.

Whether this simply involves reordering encounters into a more coherent whole or their actually invention is impossible to tell. In only one instance did I think that total invention was definitely the case (the peregrino he encounters who disgorges some very extreme views contrary to the author's own concerning the Middle East) as I found it impossible to believe that such a person would be undertaking the Camino.

The narrative also takes place at a certain moment in time and I will say no more than that this adds more stress to the author, as he worries the impact of the actions of his own country whilst experiencing distress at the one dimensional and occasionally hostile views of some people he meets on the way.

Another incident seems to have been ordered into what the author would have wanted to say is the episode where he seeks to expound a humanistic Catholic doctrine to his Camino friends. It was reading this part of the book that coalesced my views of it. It is not a simple travelogue and I think that there are probably better works out there if you want story of walking the camino. In my view this is more of modern allegory that tries to express how faith can still have meaning in the modern world. Like many religious people the author seems to see in the growth of the Camino a source of hope in the long retreat of Christianity in Europe (he decidedly does not like pilgrims who do not evidence any sensibility to the spiritual nature of the way). He wants his church to be less institutional and more humane whilst holding on to the gospel story as something factual.

The outcome is an interesting and relatively enjoyable book that too often falls between two stools. Father Codd is regrettably neither John Bunyan nor Bill Bryson. It is when he tries too hard to be either that the book is least enjoyable. Nonetheless I am glad to have read it and hope my views do not upset anyone. The trends in the world that are highlighted have if anything accelerated since it was written and I am not sure he would find the Camino as it now is quite to his taste.

Father Codd is a likeable enough travelling companion just don't ask him about his feet.
 
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Anik2001

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Past: Camino Frances (2017), future: Frances again (2020)well hopefully 2021...
I started reading it a few days ago, but won't be finished for a while since English is a second language, therefore, I read more slowly than in french. Still happy to read you impressions on it.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Thanks for the detailed review, @gns, and your contrary opinions. That is what can make the Book Club interesting! I will argue with you, but cheerfully, and hope others will be similarly open.

I can see where your points are coming from, but I think you are overly critical of Codd's motives and expression. The following words, in the context you presented, seemed negative exaggerations of what I observed.
this aspect of the book did feel close to self-loathing at times.

his anxiety

resentment

He is also haunted by a sense of his own failures,
When we walk the Camino, most of us individuals do reflect on our past errors and failures (as well as our successes and joys). But that reflection is not the same as being "haunted" by them. I expect (without much first-hand experience) that priests - especially on pilgrimage - would engage in a lot of self-reflection and even criticism. Again, that does not mean self-loathing, and I did not see Codd as such a person.

the peregrino... I found it impossible to believe that such a person would be undertaking the Camino.
There is NO type of person that would surprise me on the camino!

(he decidedly does not like pilgrims who do not evidence any sensibility to the spiritual nature of the way)
I will have to go back to find evidence of this dislike. I have no problem with him preferring the company of like-minded people, though.

It is not a simple travelogue and I think that there are probably better works out there if you want story of walking the camino.
No one work can possible tell the (universal) story of walking the camino. His camino represented my camino in only superficial ways, but his story was interesting, nevertheless.
 
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gns

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
Thanks for the detailed review, @gns, and your contrary opinions. That is what can make the Book Club interesting! I will argue with you, but cheerfully, and hope others will be similarly open.

I can see where your points are coming from, but I think you are overly critical of Codd's motives and expression. The following words, in the context you presented, seemed negative exaggerations of what I observed.

When we walk the Camino, most of us individuals do reflect on our past errors and failures (as well as our successes and joys). But that reflection is not the same as being "haunted" by them. I expect (without much first-hand experience) that priests - especially on pilgrimage - would engage in a lot of self-reflection and even criticism. Again, that does not mean self-loathing, and I did not see Codd as such a person.


There is NO type of person that would surprise me on the camino!


I will have to go back to find evidence of this dislike. I have no problem with him preferring the company of like-minded people, though.


No one work can possible tell the (universal) story of walking the camino. His camino representing my camino in only superficial ways, but his story was interesting, nevertheless.
Thanks for taking the time to read and reply. I didn't realise that my views were that negative.

I certainly wouldn't find fault with his motives and I thought I did pay tribute to his religious sensibilities.

I stand by my sense of his character as it is how it seemed to me. I do accept that l lack insight into the Catholic world, but he does express surprise when he encounters a devout young European early on. The character Toni felt like his idea of an idealised young Catholic who is educated yet faithful and appears at just the right time to help restore the author's hope for the future.

The obnoxious individual intrudes into the narrative immediately after the author has an email exchange reflecting on the plight of the Palestinians. This struck me as just too convenient and he seemed there simply to facilitate the author's internal dialogue. This fits with my sense of a constructed narrative which I am not objecting to in any way.

If I was too harsh that was not my intention as I did enjoy it and read to the end. I give notice that if anyone starts dancing at the end of one of my Caminos there will be trouble.
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I didn't realise that my views were that negative.
Perhaps my interpretation of your words was overly negative!

I give notice that if anyone starts dancing at the end of one of my Caminos there will be trouble.
I'm with you on that! I don't particularly feel a sense of great "celebration" at the end of my caminos, which is one of the reasons I don't like walking into Santiago in a family party. Maybe it is because I don't experience my caminos as grueling hardship that I've overcome with them.

I do accept that l lack insight into the Catholic world
I seriously lack that too. (But we need to be careful about trying to develop such insight on the forum.)
 
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Frances (2013), Primitivo (2015), Muxia/Fisterra (2015), Haervejen (2017)
I did not "enjoy" the last part so much. As a more experienced pilgrim now, I found the description of the pilgrim family dynamics and pressure, the August heat, the crowds and urgency to reach Santiago, to be disturbing. The family and the celebratory highs were too stressful and exhausting.
I have to agree with everything you wrote @C clearly . This was the second book I ever read about the camino (after Gitlitz). A Lutheran pastor friend of mine knows Kevin Codd and gave the book to me as a gift. It made me laugh and also helped me believe I could actually do the camino. It gave me insight into the albergues and what each day would be like. But in the end, and especially in hindsight, I thought the book was unsatisfactory. And, frankly, I have not really enjoyed another camino memoir until I read A Furnace full of God by Rebekah Scott (which is much more than a camino memoir).

I have a hard time explaining why I don't enjoy these accounts. Each of us is grappling with our own stuff. We each come from different places and experiences. Its the melding of walking, place, and people that makes each experience unique. Basically I think I have an unreasonable expectation of most memoirs. I want to read them to re-capture a little of that camino magic. I want to be trasnported back to one of my caminos. But the magic was unique to my moment and really is never going to be captured by another person.

Anyway, my 2 cents!

LizB
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
I have just purchased the book and will be sitting down to start reading it this evening. It has been a long time since I have read any persona accounts of the pilgrimage to Santiago, and I do mean a long time. the handful of books of this type I have were published between 1987 and 1994, before I made my first pilgrimage in 1995. It was a different experience then, to be sure.

Based on C clearly's suggestion in the thread starter, and the positive reactions above, I decided to give this one a try in the hopes of having some lighter, Camino-centered, spiritual reading to contrast the weightier books on my Lenten reading plan. :)
Let us know what you think of it!
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
I have just finished reading this in the kindle edition.

Having walked the Camino Frances last Summer I was able to follow the narrative of the Camino comfortably and it generally made sense.

One feature which I found interesting was the expression of his inner religious life through observance whilst walking and in relation to the various statues and icons (do Catholics use this term?) he encounters in churches along the way. As someone who has never believed it was interesting to have this articulated. This paralleled what I took to be one of the main motivations for the author's camino which was his anxiety at the loss of Catholic vocation in the modern world, reflected in the uncertain future of his seminary (which I infer is due to a lack of new ordinands leading to pressure from the USA). He sees this uncertainty replicated in the various religious houses supporting peregrinos with their devoted but aging members. His concerns for the church also express themselves in resentment towards some priests along the way who he finds either indifferent or cynical.

He is also haunted by a sense of his own failures, contrasting a failed episode of missionary work in Latin America with courageous martyrdom of other priests he learns about along the way. We luckily do not have to endure an actual crisis of faith but this aspect of the book did feel close to self-loathing at times.

The peregrinos and the Spain they cross seem in many ways to belong to another age, even though it is less than 20 years ago. The modern commercial infrastructure along the way seems almost absent and the country seems somnolent. Encounters with traffic seem to serve mainly as narrative devices as do many of the encounters with his fellow pilgrims.

In an afterword Father Codd sets out how he has constructed the narrative, saying it is based on his own memory and journals which are naturally incomplete. I think he is being mildly disingenuous here as I felt the narrative was at least partly organised to allow expression of his own concerns and also more positively the message which he wishes to convey to his fellow Catholics.

Whether this simply involves reordering encounters into a more coherent whole or their actually invention is impossible to tell. In only one instance did I think that total invention was definitely the case (the peregrino he encounters who disgorges some very extreme views contrary to the author's own concerning the Middle East) as I found it impossible to believe that such a person would be undertaking the Camino.

The narrative also takes place at a certain moment in time and I will say no more than that this adds more stress to the author, as he worries the impact of the actions of his own country whilst experiencing distress at the one dimensional and occasionally hostile views of some people he meets on the way.

Another incident seems to have been ordered into what the author would have wanted to say is the episode where he seeks to expound a humanistic Catholic doctrine to his Camino friends. It was reading this part of the book that coalesced my views of it. It is not a simple travelogue and I think that there are probably better works out there if you want story of walking the camino. In my view this is more of modern allegory that tries to express how faith can still have meaning in the modern world. Like many religious people the author seems to see in the growth of the Camino as a source of hope in the long retreat of Christianity in Europe (he decidedly does not like pilgrims who do not evidence any sensibility to the spiritual nature of the way). He wants his church to be less institutional and more humane whilst holding on to the gospel story as something factual.

The outcome is an interesting and relatively enjoyable book that too often falls between two stools. Father Codd is regrettably neither John Bunyan nor Bill Bryson. It is when he tries too hard to be either that the book is least enjoyable. Nonetheless I am glad to have read it and hope my views do not upset anyone. The trends in the world that are highlighted have of anything accelerated since it was written and I am not sure he would find the Camino as it now is quite to his taste.

Father Codd is a likeable enough travelling companion just don't ask him about his feet.
Thanks for sharing your opinions. I wish I could say that I, too, believe that no one with those opinions on the Middle Easy might be found on the Camino but, while I really believe that the Camino tends to bring out the best in us pilgrims, I also recognize that there are all sorts walking the path. I don't think he made up the incident.

I do like the insight you bring about his worries about the Church and how that affected his Camino. I think what the Camino provides to us is, in no small part, a result of what we bring to it. His travelogue is bound to be affected by his priorities, values and concerns.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I have a hard time explaining why I don't enjoy these accounts...
I want to be trasnported back to one of my caminos. But the magic was unique to my moment and really is never going to be captured by another person.
I think you explained it quite well! I find that I am usually bored by the straightforward accounts from first-time pilgrims. I was less bored by Codd's book than most.
 

gns

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
Thanks for sharing your opinions. I wish I could say that I, too, believe that no one with those opinions on the Middle Easy might be found on the Camino but, while I really believe that the Camino tends to bring out the best in us pilgrims, I also recognize that there are all sorts walking the path. I don't think he made up the incident.

I do like the insight you bring about his worries about the Church and how that affected his Camino. I think what the Camino provides to us is, in no small part, a result of what we bring to it. His travelogue is bound to be affected by his priorities, values and concerns.
Thanks for the response.

Perhaps I have just been lucky. I have not had the misfortune to walk the CF in full flood so haven't seen the full panoply of peregrinos.
 

gns

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
I think you explained it quite well! I find that I am usually bored by the straightforward accounts from first-time pilgrims. I was less bored by Codd's book than most.
I actually quite enjoyed the last part. I think he captured both the positive and the negatives of the Camino family (the mutual support and shared experiences vs occasional pettiness and the tendency to "select" or "reject" new members based on "in group" criteria). He also recognised the tendency of long distance pilgrims to disparage those beginning close to SdC (or as we said at Melide joining from the Primitivo - "Wo ist ihr Rucksack. Das ist kein Urlaub!). We are all the same even when we think we are being different.

I have tried to explain to people how starting out when there is still a long way to go the point seems to be the walk, and Santiago is just an abstract concept. As the Camino passes SdC takes shape as an actual physical destination and begins to loom on the horizon (this is about as close as I get to spirituality). I quite liked his way of articulating this through the idea of Santiago pulling him from leon onwards. a

I have bought the next book on the list but I think that when I have read that my appetite for pilgrim memoirs may likewise be satisfied.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
Since we're discussing a memoir, I thought I'd write a bit about why I like reading Camino memoirs - because it is clear that a number of people in the discussion are not fond of the genre. :) To me, it is related to the perennial question on the Forums "Why walk the Camino Frances again?" Why relive the same experience?

Of course, it isn't the same experience. You will find that there have been changes in some of the places along the route. You will meet different pilgrims on the way. You may stop in different villages or take different alternatives. It may be a different season and the weather at the various places is likely to be different. At the very least, you will be different. Overall, although the route is much the same, the experience will be different.

On the other hand, there are also those for whom that very difference is a challenge. Anyone returning to the Camino attempting to recreate their previous experience will quickly discover how doomed to failure the attempt is. The most we can hope for is something similar in character: meeting interesting, international people, getting some insights, experiencing once again another culture. If we are walking the same route again, seeing once more familiar landmarks brings with it that happy recognition. For many of us, that is enough and we return again and again.

And that's what I get from Camino memoirs (and Camino videos that I enjoy watching). It isn't the same experience I had, with the same people I knew. But it is the same kind of experience, meeting different people, gaining different insights, but along the way seeing those familiar landmarks once again.

Of course, as with any genre, there will be good books and bad. Writing is an art and a craft and some people are better at it than others. These days, when anyone can publish, there are plenty of both in the marketplace. But a good, well written Camino memoir will have as much to offer me as any other book: interesting characters, personal growth and change for the protagonist, humour, struggle, all the good things. And on top of that, those familiar landmarks of place or experience that bring happy recognition. As I wrote in a post above, I think the Camino is actually structured more than many experiences to provide just these things to an author's narrative.

Or so it seems to me. Your mileage may vary.
 

gns

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
Since we're discussing a memoir, I thought I'd write a bit about why I like reading Camino memoirs - because it is clear that a number of people in the discussion are not fond of the genre. :) To me, it is related to the perennial question on the Forums "Why walk the Camino Frances again?" Why relive the same experience?

Of course, it isn't the same experience. You will find that there have been changes in some of the places along the route. You will meet different pilgrims on the way. You may stop in different villages or take different alternatives. It may be a different season and the weather at the various places is likely to be different. At the very least, you will be different. Overall, although the route is much the same, the experience will be different.

On the other hand, there are also those for whom that very difference is a challenge. Anyone returning to the Camino attempting to recreate their previous experience will quickly discover how doomed to failure the attempt is. The most we can hope for is something similar in character: meeting interesting, international people, getting some insights, experiencing once again another culture. If we are walking the same route again, seeing once more familiar landmarks brings with it that happy recognition. For many of us, that is enough and we return again and again.

And that's what I get from Camino memoirs (and Camino videos that I enjoy watching). It isn't the same experience I had, with the same people I knew. But it is the same kind of experience, meeting different people, gaining different insights, but along the way seeing those familiar landmarks once again.

Of course, as with any genre, there will be good books and bad. Writing is an art and a craft and some people are better at it than others. These days, when anyone can publish, there are plenty of both in the marketplace. But a good, well written Camino memoir will have as much to offer me as any other book: interesting characters, personal growth and change for the protagonist, humour, struggle, all the good things. And on top of that, those familiar landmarks of place or experience that bring happy recognition. As I wrote in a post above, I think the Camino is actually structured more than many experiences to provide just these things to an author's narrative.

Or so it seems to me. Your mileage may vary.
Thanks for these interesting and insightful comments. I have watched too many Camino videos in the past year and I do enjoy watching other people's take on it. I was perhaps already a bit washed out on these before I read To the Field of Stars, which may be why it did not create a thirst for more. I am also conscious of all the other things I want to read including a book on Cluny I bought after walking the CF and Berlin Alexanderplatz which is staring accusingly at me as I type this. I think the Camino is best enjoyed as one of many interests not to the exclusion of all else.

I wholeheartedly agree with your view that each Camino even on the same route is a new experience with different things to cherish (and dislike). There are already things that I regret missing on the CF and would walk it again tomorrow if allowed.

On the other hand walking the Camino has kindled a love of simply walking through Spain and seeing new and different places. There is nothing quite like seeing a city in the distance for the first time after breasting a rise in the road.

I have walked out of Salamanca in two different directions but itch to walk in. I also want to walk to Toledo and Granada while discovering the tiny unknown places in between. Sadly to repeat one Camino means losing another.

There is I suppose no right answer for everyone and we should accept other people's choices as being as valid as our own.
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I have bought the next book on the list but I think that when I have read that my appetite for pilgrim memoirs may likewise be satisfied.
I think that the next one after that - The Great Westward Walk - is one that is different from the "typical" Camino Frances walk, so you should buy it, too!
 

CarolamS

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I happened to read this book recently because I do like reading memoirs and particularly Camino ones. This I felt was a pretty decent one. But it has left me with a big 'itch' that perhaps will be addressed in his subsequent books. I was very unhappy with his negative attitude towards people who were supported in some way, especially those in guided groups. Now this is most likely because I had the exact same trouble. I haven't done a long Camino but on the Ingles I did encounter a group of men who arrived in a mini bus and day walked. I do truly believe the Camino is for all but found these men very annoying because they were so loud! Music was played loudly by one of them and it felt so intrusive. The fact it made me cross with them further annoyed me!! I did not want to be annoyed about other people enjoying their Camino experience. So it is certainly something for me to find a way to deal with. Perhaps my 'itch' was because Kevin Codd didn't see the difficulty as belonging to himself. I'm sure I will read his next book, maybe I'll find out.
 

TrvlDad1

Covidyard Bob
Year of past OR future Camino
2017 Frances from Saria
2018 Finnisterre & Ingles
2019 Portuguese from Valenca
2020 Assisi(cancel.)
I thought it was a very spiritual, even religious book, by a very human individual who wrote an honest and balanced account of his camino, incorporating his church and assessing himself. It's not mine, I much prefer the solitude of the off-season and walking alone. But I admire and greatly envy his openness and affinity for (most) people. I walked the CP with friends in 2019 and it was not a spiritual or even recreational walk. Alone one can be the Javier or Christina and add to a group, or one can separate to self-reflect, dream and think freely. But that's just me, another very flawed human looking for answers to questions that are no always clear.
Enjoyed the book very much and just ordered the Great westward Walk.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances , Pamplona Burgos august 2018 Burgos to Santiago 19 /04 to 20/05/2019
I started reading it a few days ago, but won't be finished for a while since English is a second language, therefore, I read more slowly than in french. Still happy to read you impressions on it.
Same for me ! I have no problem in reading the books and the comments but I am struggling to express myself in English sometimes . I think the comments of all the English speakers are interesting and articulate and I just may be will add some bits and pieces in a modest way !!
 
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Paladina

old woman of the roads
Year of past OR future Camino
CF, primitivo & del norte (2017); VdlP/Sanabres, ingles etc (2018), Mozarabe etc (2019), tbc (2020)
There is NO type of person that would surprise me on the camino!
Me neither! I think we can sometimes be a bit too starry-eyed about the community of pilgrims on the way to Santiago: all sorts and conditions of men and women undertake the journey, but all happy families are not alike, whatever Tolstoy maintained to the contrary.
 

Anik2001

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Past: Camino Frances (2017), future: Frances again (2020)well hopefully 2021...
I finished the book and really enjoyed it. I liked his way of describing things like the sunflowers, or how he talked to things; the way he talked about the ups and downs of the journey, how you sometimes feel so happy you could fly and the next day, you ask yourself what you are doing there. I also liked that he reminded me how people on the way became one day a person with a name and then a friend.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances , Pamplona Burgos august 2018 Burgos to Santiago 19 /04 to 20/05/2019
I finished the book and really enjoyed it. I liked his way of describing things like the sunflowers, or how he talked to things; the way he talked about the ups and downs of the journey, how you sometimes feel so happy you could fly and the next day, you ask yourself what you are doing there. I also liked that he reminded me how people on the way became one day a person with a name and then a friend.
Yes I liked the sunflowers part !! Yes and how ‘ The mob slowly forms itself in a community ‘
May be he is rather a bit too angelical ‘ this road is remarkably free of humanity’s propensión towards agression ‘!.. after i read a few reports on this forum about attacks on women pilgrim s .. i am not so sûre ! But this are worries most of men dont feel concerned about
I like also how he puts’ the hubris of young men running all day as for a thriathlon compétition of some kind and meeting them after a few weeks .. having received their lesson from theCamino!
Makes me remember a young basque guy in Najera in the Albergue! He was walking 35km a day at least
That evening he had his first blisteeEVER and totalky panicked he turned to me for help like a little boy ( i am 66!)nearly crying
The next days i coule see he had lowered his pace a lot !
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2018
Okay, I just finished re-reading this book. On the re-read, I paid especial attention to the last part, as there seemed to be a lot of complaints about it. I didn't remember having a problem with it the first time and I wanted to see if it was just poor memory, or if I hadn't noticed something, or what.

I found my opinions more in line with those of gns. I liked the last part. It rang true to me. While I haven't walked with as Camino family the same way that many people have, the experience he described isn't far from what I've read in others. I actually liked his metaphor of the gravitational pull of Santiago. His marathon last day into Santiago reminded me of what I watched the Worldtowning family do in their vlogs. And I really liked the way he turned it on its head at the end, where in Santiago, the gravitation reversed, and people were flung apart like stars off the end of a spiral galaxy.

While the end of the story seemed like a departure from the earlier part, from walking at his own unique pace to walking with a family, it really seemed at the end that it came full circle, returning to the driving forces and metaphors that he started the book with.
 

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