At Home He's a Tourist

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

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Although most of these reviews are not exactly adultatory, the religious slant of the book may make it appropriate for our library.

DeCaro Jr., Louis A. "Fire from the midst of you": a religious life of John Brown. New York University, 2002. 349p bibl index afp ISBN 0-8147-1921-X, $32.95.

Journal of the American Academy of Religion: “The revisionist treatment of Brown is brilliantly advanced, but it raises as many questions as it answers. Heavily documented and packed with rich information. DeCaro’s tendency to compare and contrast Brown with other pivotal figures in the abolitionist crusade adds significantly to the quality of the book. Perhaps more important than anything else, this book places Brown within the broad context of what was occurring in the struggle against racial oppression and economic exploitation in the nineteenth century. Well organized and superbly written, it should become a classic in religious biography.”
Choice: "A well-researched and enjoyable biography. DeCaro successfully argues that scholars must take Brown and his religious views seriously, rather than dismissing him as a crank or zealot. But John Brown's belief system often gets lost in the details of his fascinating life. Though DeCaro depicts Brown as increasingly alienated from institutional religion, he does not describe how Brown's thought evolved from his contact with Frederick Douglass or other black leaders, or during his experiences in Hudson, Ohio; Springfield; and Kansas. Summing Up: Recommended. All levels/collections." Christian Century: “DeCaro’s book will appeal to readers interested in ante bellum evangelicalism; Oates’s will remain standard for those who are fascinated with Brown’s role as a precursor of the Civil War." Library Journal: “More ambitious than a popular history but not quite a scholarly treatise, DeCaro’s plainly written book may find an audience among readers with a deep interest in history and religion. Recommended for larger public and academic libraries." Publishers Weekly: “DeCaro’s portrayal of John Brown is hardly pathbreaking…Nonetheless, this useful book-length study is a welcome addition to the literature on John Brown.” Journal of American History: “DeCaro makes little effort to place Brown within a broad social, intellectual, cultural, or political context. He does provide a concise, sympathetic, and, on occasion, dramatic and compelling account. This is an accessible interpretation that should attract popular as well as academic interest. There are aspects that may frustrate. He often uses reminiscences anachronistically. The endnotes are haphazardly placed, and he usually does not cite secondary sources that he alludes to in the text. He prefers to rely on the older secondary literature. Most striking in a religious biography is the absence of an extended analysis of Brown’s theology.”


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