An incendiary but profoundly moving deconstruction of conservative Christianity.

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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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