THE DEATH AND LIFE OF BISHOP PIKE by William & Anthony Towne Stringfellow


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In death as in life Bishop James Pike seems to reach out towards controversy. And if Stringfellow and Towne, staunch friends and authors of the Bishop Pike Affair (1967), find themselves conducting a two-act trial, it is often Pike himself--through confidences made to his wife Diane and intended for his autobiography--who stands as both accuser and defendant. Perhaps the most damaging personal revelations concern Pike's relationship with emotionally disturbed Maren Bergrud. His efforts to cover up the circumstances of her suicide in their shared apartment were certainly shameful if not criminal; and it is Maren Bergrud--largely written out of his book, The Other Side--whom the authors blame for variously imagining and manipulating most of the manifestations which Pike interpreted as communications from his dead son Jim. On the matter of the heresy trial, it is Pike's opponents whose motives are impugned by the new evidence while Pike, admittedly an exegete rather than an original scholar, gains in stature. In the end every reader will have to make up his own mind about the mind-boggling hyperactivity of those last years; many saw it as a form of madness and even here, in a new-journalism account of the Bishop's dramatic appearance at the Catonsville Nine trial, one may question whether his actions were heroically committed or merely the reflexes of a compulsive scene-stealer. Stringfellow and Towne have avoided a chronological reprise as ""too prosaic,"" and both their frenetic prose and admiring advocacy are distortive. No matter. That this is less a retrospective evaluation than a new full-scale confrontation would have pleased the Bishop enormously.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1976
Publisher: Doubleday