A modern apologetic that exuberantly uses the flourishes of memoir.




A lifetime of dissatisfaction with Evangelicalism leads a contrarian Christian intellectual to the Catholic faith in this spiritually focused memoir.

Williams (The Moral Premise: Harnessing Virtue and Vice for Box Office Success, 2006) grew up in Michigan in the 1950s and ’60s as a Free Methodist, a formal denomination of Evangelicalism practiced rigidly by his abusive mother in an effort to avoid the world’s evils, from communism to Catholicism. But like his grandmother, who had adventured in India as a missionary, young Stan had a restless spirit, one that became more dogged in defiance of his mother and was bolstered further through his college studies in Christian existentialism, physics, and philosophy. Sampling numerous conflicting doctrines in churches and parachurches across the country, he remained spiritually unsettled by each denomination’s cherry-picking from the Bible, lack of unwavering moral doctrine, and an unwillingness to embrace the more charismatic and artistic aspects of worship. His evangelical faith exhausted, he skeptically, and without the support of his family, turned to Catholicism, using his own version of the scientific method (rooted perhaps too heavily in biblical anecdotes for some) to test and eventually embrace the religion his mother once vilified. Williams’ heavily conservative memoir, often overtaken by a tangible excitement, forgoes linear narrative and charmingly backtracks at times as if the momentum of the story has gotten ahead of the storyteller. The author uses lists to help organize the large amount of interdenominational information and employs a wry sense of humor and regular, comical hyperbole (“My teeth began to grind. Layers of enamel fell from my mouth into my open bible’s binding”) to keep things from becoming too dry. Williams has an impressively varied work history—training astronauts, photographing automobiles, and filmmaking. The heavy focus on Evangelicalism’s shortcomings, however, often obscures his other interests. Friends, co-workers, even the author’s three children are largely regulated to background roles, unless needed to provide a revelation or a barricade on his journey to Catholicism.

A modern apologetic that exuberantly uses the flourishes of memoir.

Pub Date: Nov. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9824058-8-8

Page Count: 548

Publisher: Nineveh's Crossing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2016

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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 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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