A highly readable reminder to Christians about where their true priorities should lie.

Spiritual Fear Factor

LIVING MARKED BY THE FEAR OF GOD TO TRANSFORM A WORLD CENTERED ON THE FEAR OF MAN

A handbook for devout Christians invokes diverse pop-culture references.

The key organizing conceit of Abraham’s nonfiction debut is an extended comparison between true living in the Christian faith and the TV series Fear Factor, in which contestants were essentially pitted against their own worst fears and urged to overcome them to win prizes. In an analogy no less effective for being so cheesy, the author asks his target audience to apply the format and consequences of a show like Fear Factor to their spiritual lives: in this world, do believers fear human things they can see when they should be afraid of the divine things that matter most? “What if,” Abraham asks, “we live in a world centered on the fear of man, but have the opportunity to transform it by living marked by the fear of God?” The author contends that the noisy, attention-grabbing modern world around believers can distract them from the “straight, safe and godly path” that will lead to salvation. In the somewhat convoluted phrasing so common in modern self-actualization ministries, he contends that “God commands us to ask Him to show us the right path,” and the bulk of this book focuses on helping to show the way. These chapters forego doctrinal disagreements in favor of concentrating on spiritual basics and on trying to teach readers to be “shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves” about their faith practices. Abraham makes liberal use of pop culture, citing TV shows and movies and even indulging in some textual criticism of the Pharrell Williams hit song “Happy” (readers are told it “implicitly speaks to the fear of man and the fear of God”). There are digressions on subjects like chaos theory or the various names of God in the Bible, and footnotes accompany the whole narrative, usually providing Abraham with opportunities to tell jokes and lighten the mood a bit. The result is a fast-paced, engaging faith manual for the millennial set.

A highly readable reminder to Christians about where their true priorities should lie.

Pub Date: May 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4984-7141-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Xulon

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2016

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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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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