At Home He's a Tourist

He fills his head with culture/ He gives himself an ulcer.

Friday, August 22, 2003

In an attempt to make Biblioblog live up to its name, I'll be listing interesting new academic books, along with snippets from as many reviews as I have access to. And our first entry is...

Taylor, Charles. Varieties of Religion Today: William James Revisited. Harvard, $19.95.

International Philosophical Quarterly: “Brief yet rich and densely argued…On virtually every page he offers new ways of considering such important issues as the nature of personal identity and the development of the modern state. Taylor’s attempts to weave James into these reflections, however, are for the most part not very productive. Taken separately, as either a commentary on James or as an expression of Taylor’s current thinking on the role of religion in society, the book works well; but when these projects are combined, the result is often obscure.”

Journal of Religion: “a focused, warm, and insightful book…Much of the time in this book, Taylor is more sociologist than philosopher…Taylor’s discussion of these Jamesian ideas is extremely insightful even though limited to a very small portion of his total corpus, that is, The Varieties and the essays collected in The Will to Believe…this book is excellent and constitutes a genuine contribution to both the philosophical and social science study of religion.—Don S. Browning, Univ. of Chicago.”

Review of Politics: “Taylor’s lectures are more suggestive and comprehensive, but they reflect immense learning and humane understanding. Those who agree-as I do-that his own book Sources of the Self has reached near classic status will wish to read these lectures which show us that a classic work has a surplus of meaning.—Lawrence Cunningham.”

New Republic: “a helpful if uneven review of the primacy of the individual in James’s work, an inquiry into the philosophical origins of this view, and a criticism of it in the name of communitarianism…Taylor presents a criticism of James that operates on two somewhat confused levels…Taylor has too much confidence in the community…Taylor is oddly unconcerned about the actual content of religious belief, about its truth…It is an odd criticism to make about Taylor, but in this book there is not enough philosophy.—Erin Leib.”

Library Journal: “a well-written, easily accessible overview of today’s individualistic religious tendencies. Recommended for larger public collections and those with strong holdings in theology.”

Going to a Christian rock festival in Midland this weekend. Will update on Monday.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

From the Publishers

LJ sent me a book to review by a Slovenian pomo philosopher and cultural critic. It's called The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity. The blurb says "His reading of Christianity is explicity political, discerning in the Paulinian community of believers the first version of a revolutionary collective." Blech. I shouldn't complain, though--I think reviewing, by forcing me to read stuff I ordinarily would avoid, will perhaps keep my opinions (unfailingly correct though they are) from getting too ossified. This is certainly a case in point, since I dislike both continental philosophy and liberal theology. Besides, flipping through it I was pleasantly surprised to find a discussion of C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton, a couple of my favorite Christian apologists, so there could be stuff of intrinsic interest here. I may blog about the book as I work through it.

The publisher of my dissertation sent me my periodic royalty statement recently. Grand total: €0.00. (Euros 'cause it's a Dutch outfit.) Even after three years in print only 170 copies of the book have been sold, mostly to libraries, and I don't start receiving a share of the profits until 250. Still, it pumps up the resumé, and it was fun to write.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

cadge intr. & tr.v. cadged, cadg·ing, cadg·es To beg or get by begging. (

Bob Seger Smokin' O.P.'s [Palladium, 1972]
Zippy title for an album of seven covers and two originals--O.P.'s is Midwestern butt-bummers' slang for Other People's. But for some reason Seger has cadged songs already covered definitively by such other o.p. as B.B. King, the Isley Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones. Both his band and his voice sound a lot more adroit than they did last time he was caught smokin'. But who needs 'em? C+ (

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

pa·lav·er n. 1. a. Idle chatter. b. Talk intended to charm or beguile. 2. Obsolete. A parley between European explorers and representatives of local populations, especially in Africa.
v. pa·lav·ered, pa·lav·er·ing, pa·lav·ers v. tr.To flatter or cajole.
v. intr.To chatter idly. (

Barry White All-Time Greatest Hits [Mercury, 1994]
White's R-rated revival was prefigured not by the latest disco boomlet, so hard to distinguish from its many predecessors, but by the jeepbeat masterminds who will certainly raid the maestro's catalogue as soon as he can get it for them wholesale. He did his share of banging back in the day, and he's always had the integrity to remain utterly lowbrow--street, as they say. Of course, the main thing White heard in the 'hood was the brandy-spiked whipped cream in his head, and with Phil Spector a living legend, nobody could know how few would share such genius. But two decades later "Love's Theme" is a milestone. And then there are his raps, as his style of romantic palaver was called, and a voice that could make Tone-Loc beg for mercy. Never an album artist, he's the stuff of camp for some, and limited for anyone who isn't his sex subject. But where 1993's box was way too much, this 20-song sampler has me hearing the deep truth in "Just the Way You Are": "I don't want clever/Conversation/I don't want to work that hard." A- (

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

In the Aftermath of Minneapolis

On Sunday afternoon I went to church for a meeting of parishioners concerned about ECUSA's notorious election of a non-celibate gay man to the bishopric of New Hampshire. Around 40 people showed up, which I would estimate is nearly half of our active membership. Many of them were very emotional, choking up as they either contemplated leaving the church they were raised in or urged their friends not to do so. I wasn't as upset, partly due to temperament but also because of the following considerations:

First, New Hampshire is 2,000 miles away. "The Episcopal Church" is something of an abstraction, a label for a loose confederation of largely autonomous dioceses. New Hampshire's tolerance for homosexuality does not in itself affect the teaching of Northwest Texas. (However, the Robinson election may encourage the gay caucus to enforce tolerance of homosexuality on the church as a whole. Such is the trajectory taken by the women's ordination issue in the 1980s; at first it was left up to the individual dioceses, but now it is imposed as canonical law on the church entire. If that happens with homosexuality I'm outta here.)

Second, we've had worse bishops in the past. Pike in the 60s and Spong in the 90s held and taught much more serious heresy than tolerance of gay sex--Arianism, denial of the Resurrection, even a rejection of theism itself.

Third, I don't have many options. The other mainline Protestant denominations are also wracked by the same controversy. The RC and EO churches are attractive to me and stand firm on traditional sexual teaching, but I'm not ready--yet--to purchase the entire package of extra-biblical dogmas (Mariology, etc.) they bundle with their orthodoxy. And I could never tolerate a fundie/evie church with moronic praise choruses, unbiblical teetotalism, obligatory patriotism, etc. The LCMS is my most likely refuge, although they're a bit too insistent on monergism and consubstantiation for my tastes.

Robert Christgau Word of the Day

adv. In the past; at a former time; formerly.
adj. Former: our erstwhile companions. (

The Best of Herbie Hancock [Columbia, 1979]
In which the erstwhile watermelon man heats up a frozen quiche in his microwave. A/k/a Funk Goes to College. C+ (

Sunday, August 17, 2003


More guitar chords for Van Morrison songs:
Rave on John Donne: (part 1) Gadd9 Am7 Dsus4 [xx403x] (part 2) Gadd9 C Em
In the Forest: (intro) Em G (repeat) D (stanza) Em D C Am7 G
Till We Get the Healing Done: (stanza) Em D C (chorus) G /A /B /D C /D /E /G