A writer reflects on the solace he sought in seminarian life from childhood trauma, and the ways in which the Roman Catholic Church failed him.
Debut author Ward grew up in a drearily chilly household—his mother was violently domineering and his father was a depressive alcoholic who eventually committed suicide. The coldness of his home was often punctured by the vicious beatings his parents delivered—the “angry outbursts and surprise attacks” cultivated an environment of cowed fear. As a result, the author was emotionally tortured and suffered a “dark and dismal” existence. He turned to the Catholic Church for “relief from loneliness and a life without purpose.” He knew he wanted to be a priest since he was 8 years old. At first, when he joined the seminary, he experienced it as his “place of serenity” and the world outside of it the mere “domain of survival.” But he was flummoxed by the lack of spiritual seriousness, the dogmatically rigid adherence to doctrine, and a corrosive environment that was a “breeding ground for sexual pathology.” In his memoir, Ward affectingly relates the grim torment he experienced in his youth as well as his “spiritual evolution” from an enthusiastic Catholic to a principled critic of the church. Ultimately, he came to the conclusion that the church’s obsession with institutional hierarchy was an impediment to its devotion to the spirit of Jesus’ teaching: “I was becoming more and more convinced that the core message of Jesus was being directly eclipsed by the needs and purposes of the organization, the bureaucratic Catholic Church.” In elegant and often stirring prose, intellectually thoughtful but always accessible, the author argues for a more personal understanding of spiritual life, shorn of inelastic doctrinal commitments and the demand for blind obedience to clerical officials. While the crux of Ward’s argument traverses very familiar ground, this is not a mere recounting of his preference for personal over institutional theology. He provides a meticulous argument that the inherent demands of any bureaucratic organization will conflict with a satisfying spiritual life.
A poignantly candid memoir artfully combined with a rigorous critique of institutional religion.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
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)