He's alive all right, but what is he up to? Williams is a sort of minister at Glide Methodist Church in San Francisco, but...

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I'M ALIVE!

He's alive all right, but what is he up to? Williams is a sort of minister at Glide Methodist Church in San Francisco, but he's not really a Christian or even a theist, much less a Methodist. And this is a sort of autobiography, but it leaves huge gaps, barely touching Williams' adolescence, his early career, his marriage and divorce. Born in the black section of San Angelo, Texas, around 1930 (Williams doesn't say exactly when), he was dubbed ""Rev"" as a boy and headed straight for a career in the Church, after graduating from the heretofore lilywhite Perkins School of Theology at S.M.U. Characteristically, Williams says practically nothing about religion, at any point, though he does describe in tedious detail some recurrent paranoid nightmares he had at age 10. His eventual rout of the murderous ""aliens"" who visited him during sleep suggests both his future struggles against racism and oppression, and his notion of himself as a harried, heroic visionary. After a few false starts, Williams found what he'd been looking for in San Francisco: a liberal, integrated congregation where his eloquence and histrionic genius could have free play. Services at Glide, with an eight-piece band, a light show, and Williams' galvanic radical humanism, soon became an SRO spectacular. And Williams himself was launched as a prophet-politician (later he'd be involved in negotiations between William Randolph Hearst, Jr. and the SLA). Obviously, there's more than enough material here for a fine story, but Williams misses his chance. Despite a few vivid scenes, he spends too much time inside his own head instead of out on the streets. His lengthy fantasies and sermons-to-nobody-in-particular are simply too vague to hold the reader's attention. The man is evidently sincere and loaded with talent--among other things, he writes clean, pungent prose--but he doesn't quite seem to know what to do with it.

Pub Date: April 2, 1980

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1980