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Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness
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Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  226 ratings  ·  36 reviews
With a foreword by Oliver Sacks

Shortly after John Hull went blind, after years of struggling with failing vision, he had a dream in which he was trapped on a sinking ship, submerging into another, unimaginable world. The power of this calmly eloquent, intensely perceptive memoir lies in its thorough navigation of the world of blindness—a world in which stairs are safe and
Paperback, 248 pages
Published June 2nd 1992 by Vintage (first published December 4th 1990)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  226 ratings  ·  36 reviews

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Sophy H
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A sad and touching account of a man's adjustment to gradual blindness.

Whilst the writing isn't groundbreaking or pioneering, its honest and heartfelt.

It made me sad to think of what it would be like to never be able to read a physical book again, turn the pages and cast your eyes over precious words, or to look at your partner's face, see them smile, laugh, frown, cry.

Blindness is so devastating when you live in such a visual world. John Hull handles the topic with tenderness and sensitivity.
Aug 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Short but marvelous essays on nearly all aspects of life as a blind person. I read this quite a few years ago, but its impact remains.

I just came across a copy I made of some of the essays, ones that covered topics in ways I'd never thought of. How a sighted person might not define a gray, overcast day as a "good day," but a blind person might, if the temp was mild and there was a soft breeze. A longer essay on the beautiful nuances of sound during a rainstorm. How smiling becomes a conscious ra
May 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
I added this book to my list because it was one of David Bowie's favorites. There were definitely some interesting insightful parts about the experience of blindness, but I had no idea how religious this memoir would be...and how much time would be spent talking about dreams.
Jan 31, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: con-federico
Una testimonianza che va al di là delle false considerazioni e dei fraintendimenti che si creano necessariamente tra vedenti e non vedenti. Ma non c’è traccia di autocommiserazione, di politicamente corretto, di una strada per una facile accettazione di questo dramma. Piuttosto le considerazioni che la nostra società è giocoforza strutturata su esperienze visive e di come non si possa pretendere un cambiamento radicale o lamentarne la mancanza di comprensione.
Verso la conclusione (spero non ven
Jessica K
Jul 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure how anyone's journal/ personal thoughts/ experience could be lower than a 5 star review... It doesn't make sense to me. With that said, I thought Touching the Rock was so insightful into the world of blindness and it was honest. I love thought processes and his ideas of what blindness is. It took me a while to read because I liked to break up in, reading a few journal entries everyday until I was done. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Aug 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very personal and authentic account of struggles one may face after losing sight. The internal battle to accept blindness reveals that no one is prepared for such an event. Hull touched me with his relationship to the children, he portrays a father who tries to fulfill his role but knows it will not come easily.
David Le roux
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm grateful that John Hull was so vulnerable. He allowed me to gain an inkling of what it must be like to be blind. At times it was heart wrenching. The reflections were, at times, profound. Well worth the read.
Oct 07, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a strange book to review. As a collection of journal entries and brief essays, it somewhat escapes genres. The guiding theme is, more or less, the author's own adaptations to blindness, and these are frequently thought-provoking (to my fully-sighted self). The different approaches (which one might call medical management, social management, and finally spiritual management) are compelling and interesting, but the thoughts the author presents didn't stun me. Not that he NEEDS to -- in som ...more
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is a true story about going blind. It is written by a man who goes blind later in life. He reveals his thoughts on blindness by describing what different parts of his home life and work life are like (for example, the new way he learns to open presents with his son on his son's birthday or the seemingly harmless jests his coworkers make about blindness in professional settings). The author is also a Christian and throughout the book he pauses to reflect on different pieces of scripture that ...more
Dec 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"La felicità è casuale, ma le attribuiamo un significato trasfigurando il Caso mediante nuove immagini.
Ma questo non è il risultato di uno sforzo, o perlomeno noi non lo percepiamo come tale. Le immagini hanno una loro forza, e la vita ci appare dotata di senso solo in seguito alla ricomposizione che esse operano sul contenuto accidentale dell'esistenza. La cosa più importante nella vita non è la felicità ma il significato. La felicità è il prodotto di catene di accidenti che tendono al nostro
Jul 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: phinney-books
This came highly recommended from a trusted source, but I found it did not hold my attention. I forced myself to finish, hoping for some illumination which didn't happen. Towards the end, I skipped any retelling of dreams as I find this the most tedious element to read. Nothing is more boring than another person's dream and the analysis of dreams is highly suspect.
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Peers into the world of a man who can no longer visualize the world with his eyes, and yet sees more than we could ever dream.
Pino Sabatelli
Nella Premessa, l'Autore scrive: "Se stai leggendo questo libro probabilmente vuoi capire cos'è la cecità. Vuoi sapere cosa significa diventare ciechi, vivere da ciechi". In effetti è così: ero interessato a sapere proprio questo. E il libro inizia in maniera molto promettente, ponendo una domanda a cui, da vedente, non avevo mai pensato: "Da quanto tempo bisogna essere ciechi prima che i sogni comincino a perdere i colori?".
Peccato, però, che proseguendo nel racconto, Hull perda progressivament
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a beautiful little book about this man's early experience of going blind and his encounters with himself, his family, and others along the way. Simple. Practical. Clear. Beautiful.
Ginger Hallett
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Ginger by: Oliver Sacks
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
The word memoir doesn't quite capture the spirit of this book. Yes, the memoir genre basically fits, as Hull is describing his very specific and very arresting experiences of going blind. Yet, memoir doesn't convey the utterly philosophical nature of Hull's writing. Despite its journal-based structure, I'd have to call this a meditation instead of something as prosaic as memoir.

In Touching the Rock Hull ruminates on the philosophical and psychological consequences of total blindness. He describe
Ruth Brumby
Oct 15, 2016 rated it did not like it
There is one section, on Rain, which is brilliant. However the construction of the book is seriously flawed. The sections are taken from recordings which John Hull made in the years following his complete loss of sight. They are collated in date order, but the sense of a journey, although referred to metaphorically, is not clear. There is some repetition, which does not matter, and is even, to some extent, used effectively, but generally there is not a clear construction of themes. It appears th ...more
Justin Taylor
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Got it as a present after I saw the movie. I think Hull's reflective skills open up a view into blindness. I would have loved to see more of how he formed his theology based on his blindness. That said, the second last chapter was incredible insightful.

Not an easy read but well worth it!!
Erik Rostad
It's funny how it can take someone who can't see to get you to see things you've been missing your whole life. Touching the Rock is a series of journal entries from John M. Hull as he goes completely blind in the early 80's. It's a fascinating look at the inner life of a blind person, common misperceptions from those he calls "sighted," and how dignity is oftentimes lost when people try to help.
Wilde Sky
A man recounts his life and experience of blindness.

Some parts of this book were interesting but overall I couldn't engage with it – in particular I couldn’t understand what the dream sections were supposed to convey.
Courtney Carlson
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
Remarkably well-written: the perfect balance between narrative and dialogue sections, and philosophical ponderings. I don't think I've read another memoir that was written with such flawless pacing and style.
Laura Manfre
May 28, 2008 is currently reading it
Fascinating memoir of an adult who loses his vision.
Jul 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 1992
May 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written and deeply insightful account of blindness, interwoven with fascinating dreams and how the author's faith interacted with his sight loss. I'd recommend this book to anyone.
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
È un frammento di diario intimo, i cui pensieri furono originariamente registrati su nastro, dove l'autore prova a raccontare cosa sia la cecità o meglio come sia stata vissuta da lui. Sono annotati, senza una vera concatenazione o direzione di senso (come viene esplicitamente detto nella premessa), alcuni degli eventi più significativi degli anni che seguono alla perdita totale della vista (dal 1983 al 1986), dovuta al distacco della retina. L'introduzione all'edizione originale trasforma però ...more
I watched the documentary about John Hull on an airplane and was so moved that as soon as I landed, I ordered this book. I spent nearly three years in India and worked once a week with a group of blind boys teaching them how to swim. I regret not having read this book until after I moved away because John Hull documented the process of turning from a sighted man into a man that is blind. He recorded his observations about losing his sight - what was difficult, how it affected his relationship wi ...more
Autobiographical. I read this book in college and at the time it was incredibly thought provoking. The story is of the author who loses his vision in adulthood and is a series of essays regarding his experience. From the reality of forgetting his older children’s faces to being told he’s approaching stairs but not being told if the stairs are going up or down or being accused of faking blindness, I found his writing honest and insightful.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very enlightening book in some ways. The author went completely blind in midlife, gradually, after years of eye problems. Shortly afterwards, he started a journal to describe the experience. The book covers about the first 4 years. Many of his experiences are not things the sighted would ever imagine, and for that reason I feel like everyone should read this book or one like it. How many things we get wrong when we interact with the blind!
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book to read when you feel tired or depressed or after going through a trauma. Even if it seems depressing it offers hope. Hope that no matter what bad things we go through there is always a silver lining. If you look deep enough you'll find something good no matter how bad things are.
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John Martin Hull was Emeritus Professor of Religious Education at the University of Birmingham. He was the author of a number of books and many articles in the fields of religious education, practical theology and disability. The latter interest arose from his experiences, and personal and theological reflections, on becoming blind in mid-career. He edited the British Journal of Religious Educatio ...more

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