Like most popular literary biographies, Rumi’s Secret may not be especially masterly as a work of criticism. For those who want a more precise portrait, Franklin Lewis’s scholarly biography remains the definitive work. But Gooch’s book is nonetheless useful. He braves his own translations, and situates Rumi in the broader context of his time and place: a moment of vast creative productivity in the medieval Islamic world, where Sufis were pushing the boundaries of orthodoxy ... Gooch’s biography brings the political and intellectual tumult of the early medieval era to life, producing vivid characters out of the reigning Seljuk sultans and memorable portraits of urban experience. But against this rich backdrop, he constructs a Rumi who has been simplified for our secular age ... Rumi’s Secret may be a Lonely Planet guide to Sufism, but it is a sensitive and passionate introduction nonetheless.
Now, to rescue Rumi from this inane Orientalizing comes the poet, novelist and biographer Brad Gooch with Rumi’s Secret. A dazzling feat of scholarship, but a pedestrian read, the book restores Rumi to the glories and hardships of his momentous age ... Gooch manages to paint an accessible, tangible portrait of the ancient poet ... Rumi’s Secret is a strangely dry read considering it has a literally whirling mystic as its subject. As if fearing that too lyrical an approach to such an orphic figure would result in incoherence, Gooch describes this poet’s life in a decidedly unpoetic way ... this book won’t get anyone excited about Rumi. Instead, it will give those already excited about Rumi help in contextualizing his work.
Gooch does an exceptional—if at times overwhelming—job of sussing out the trends and connections that mattered most to Rumi, including the remarkable era for human learning in which he lived ... For a man who wrote poems that read as near mythic today, seeing his influences laid out in such detail could be demystifying. But instead, Gooch’s account adds a human touch to a man who appears larger than life. Rumi’s poems reflect his own, revealing a universal nature through their exploration of grief, love, and pleasure in worship. Although Gooch does not identify what Rumi’s titular secret was, it seems that it could be as simple as feeling deeply and sharing it with the world.
...we should be grateful, too, for Brad Gooch’s fine, searching biography, Rumi’s Secret, which will fascinate his subject’s many admirers ... Rumi’s 'transformative friendship with' and coded references to Shams represent 'the greatest and most guarded' of the secrets to which Mr. Gooch’s title alludes ... In certain respects, Rumi’s Secret reminded me of Gilbert Highet’s delightful Poets in a Landscape... Although Mr. Gooch doesn’t attend as diligently to Rumi’s physical surroundings, his sensitivity and sensibility are worthy of the great Highet ...appreciated Mr. Gooch’s liberal and apposite sprinkling of Rumi’s words throughout the text... While I wouldn’t urge Mr. Gooch to pursue stand-alone translation, his interpretations are faultlessly calibrated and interposed.
Some may also question the validity of conversations and details shared hundreds of years after the fact, despite Gooch’s thorough references. The book is important, however, because it illustrates how each man helped the poet learn about love (both human and divine), the process of giving up the self to make room for something purer and higher, and transcendence. The work also shows how the poet came to realize the logic and importance of a religion of the heart.
In a new biography of Rumi, Rumi’s Secret, Brad Gooch describes how Shams pushed Rumi to question his scriptural education, debating Koranic passages with him and emphasizing the idea of devotion as finding oneness with God ...Gooch helpfully chronicles the political events and religious education that influenced Rumi ... Even in Gooch’s book, though, there is a tension between these facts and the desire to conclude that Rumi, in some sense, transcended his background — that, as Gooch puts it, he 'made claims for a "religion of love" that went beyond all organized faiths.'
In his new biography, Rumi’s Secret, Brad Gooch captures all of these elements that have caused some to place Rumi in Walt Whitman’s family tree ...as much the story of the places Rumi lived and the people who influenced him as it is the story of the Sufi poet ...he is able to capture not only the geographical outlines but the character of the cities Rumi encountered...treats readers to a 2,500 mile-long feast for the senses, transporting us from the willow trees and glacial streams of Rumi’s birthplace to the splendor and squalor of the Samarkand bazaars... Gooch’s skill as a verbal portraitist does not, unfortunately, extend to his portrayal of Rumi himself ...Rumi’s transformation from pious cleric to unconventional Sufi would be more revealing if Gooch had etched his figure definitively from the beginning ... If readers are willing to connect Gooch’s dots for themselves, however, Rumi emerges from the shadows in all his startling relevance for contemporary society.
...traced the poet’s steps through the Middle East, immersed himself in scholarship, and, impressively, spent years learning Persian in order to translate Rumi’s works and contemporary accounts of a poet who came to achieve enormous international popularity for his 'emphasis on ecstasy and love over religions and creeds' ... Shams was rude and uncompromising, opposite in personality from the gentle Rumi, but the two formed an intense bond, which Gooch sees as the essential secret of Rumi’s life and work ... A vivid depiction of the powerful religious forces that Rumi transcended to reveal 'the sound of one soul speaking.'
In sometimes poetic, though sometimes prosaic and workmanlike, prose, Gooch provides an in-depth biography of Rumi, the great Sufi poet ... Drawing deeply on Rumi’s own writing, Gooch clearly recreates the life and times of this 13th-century mystic ... Gooch’s biography can be plodding, but the story it tells is fascinating enough to compel readers to pick up Rumi’s poetry and discover his secret for themselves.