GOD'S SALESMAN

NORMAN VINCENT PEALE AND THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING

A sympathetic biography of the controversial preacher that situates him in the mainstream of the American populist religious tradition. Although no longer a household word, Peale's name was synonymous not long ago with middle-class Protestantism. His most important book, The Power of Positive Thinking, towered over the bestseller lists in the early 1950's, while his magazine, Guideposts, still boasts a circulation of four million. His power base consisted mostly of middle-aged women, who flocked to his doctrine of ``Practical Christianity''—an upbeat, unorthodox teaching based on ancient folk beliefs that regard God as a ``Higher Consciousness'' whose divine energy is accessible to anyone who practices ``positive thinking'' (a gussied-up version, detractors might suggest, of Peter Pan's counsel for flying through happy thoughts). As George (History/Hobart and William Smith Colleges) shows, Peale's lessons had their roots in Emerson and William James, and led to today's human-potential movement. During his heyday, Peale was excoriated by intellectuals (a result, George suggests, of liberal intolerance for Peale's strident anti-Communism). George, however, grinds no axes, offering a balanced account of her subject's life—from his serene childhood through his meteoric ascension as a nondenominational preacher at N.Y.C.'s Marble Collegiate Church to his near-disgrace in 1960 when he injected anti-Catholic rhetoric into the Kennedy-Nixon campaign. Despite this gaffe, Peale comes off here as a vigorous, sincere, red-white-and-blue proselytizer for a Yankee Doodle brand of Protestantism. That his religion marketed God as a friend to all and won the hearts of housewives and salesmen (thus the book's double-edged title) is, for George, neither a plus nor a minus but simply an intriguing and well-told chapter in the history of the American socioreligious consciousness. Peels the layers off ``Pealeism'' (George's coinage) with intelligence and tact: first-rate. (Thirty halftones—not seen.)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-507463-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1992

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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