An incendiary but profoundly moving deconstruction of conservative Christianity.

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EMPTY THE PEWS

STORIES OF LEAVING THE CHURCH

A timely collection of essays by a diverse group of people who’ve left the religious right.

This Eos Award–winning book features an assortment of written works from men and women who grew up attending fundamentalist and evangelical Christian churches but eventually went their own way. The book should be especially praised for its inclusion of a wide range of perspectives. The authors of the nearly two dozen essays here include multiple New York Times-bestselling writers, popular bloggers, artists, and academics; they include white men, feminists, African Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, Protestants, and Catholics. The book’s debut editors are at the vanguard of the bourgeoning “exvangelical” movement on social media; Stroop created the viral Twitter hashtags #EmptyThePews and #ChristianAltFacts, and O’Neal co-hosts the “Sunday School Dropouts” podcast. The book’s foreword is by Frank Schaeffer, the son of Francis Schaeffer, an ideological founder of the modern-day religious right and an evangelical icon from the 1970s through the ’90s. Each essay addresses what the younger Schaeffer calls America’s “generational exodus from toxic Christianity” from the perspective of former members. Although many of the authors here are currently atheists, others found spirituality in Eastern spiritualism or in more liberal interpretations of Christianity. The collection’s opening section, “Purity Culture, Sexuality, and Queerness,” is perhaps its most damning, featuring the stories of abuse survivors, gay people, and other victims of conservative Christians’ sexual repression and hypocrisy. Boy Erased author Garrard Conley’s essay, “Land of Plenty,” on his endurance of gay “conversion therapy,” is particularly poignant. Not all of the essays, though, center on traumatic experiences as the factor that led their authors to leave the church. Peter Counter’s contribution, “Saint Tornado-Kick,” for example, intriguingly shows the gradual transition of a sincere Catholic teenager away from the faith of his parents after taking up karate lessons. Overall, this is a profound, well-written collection that will appeal not just to “exvangelicals” and other critics of the religious right, but also introspective fundamentalists who seek explanations for their dwindling numbers.

An incendiary but profoundly moving deconstruction of conservative Christianity.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946093-07-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Epiphany Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2019

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

SEVERAL SHORT SENTENCES ABOUT WRITING

New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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