Thinking Out Loud

April 25, 2013

Eric Metaxas: The Accidental Biographer

To hear him tell it, Eric Metaxas was as surprised as anyone at the success of his William Wilberforce biography, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery and his epic-length Deitrict Bonhoeffer follow up with Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, which clocked in at 608 pages.

7 Men And the Secret of Their Greatness - Eric MetaxasThis time around he offers a sampler of stories in Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness. He draws on material from the earlier books for two of the sections, and the seventh is someone with whom he worked personally; which leaves us with this lineup:  George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson,  

While I’m not a sports guy, I’ve mentioned here a few weeks ago that the Jackie Robinson chapter was my favorite, and the timing vis-a-vis the 42 movie works out well.  It also typifies Metaxas’ desire to bring us new narrative elements, and new backstory. It as if he is anticipating the question, “Can you tell me something I haven’t heard before?’

Was the inclusion of Washington pandering to a U.S. audience? While I can see the eyes of Brits and Canadians rolling, the chapter allowed the book to reach back into another century. At the contemporary end of the timeline, that Metaxas worked with Charles Colson gave him access to details others would miss.

There is literally something for everyone here: Sports, politics, Catholic interest, U.S. History, etc., and with Father’s Day coming up, this is a title I can highly recommend. If the 608 pages (of the Bonhoeffer book) is too much reading some men, this one is only 256 pages, but is a book to be measured by its depth, not its length. Readers are encouraged to read the chapters in any sequence as I did.

The book releases next week from Thomas Nelson in hardcover in the U.S., elsewhere paperback.

April 22, 2010

Better Than Roberts Rules of Order

You can’t expect to run a society by the rules of parliamentary debate, but it often seems like a little bit of civility and decency might be in order.   So it seems rather timely that George Washington’s Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation should be released by so many publishers over the last few years.

American kids grow up knowing the rules as part of a penmanship exercise, but the title is foreign to Canucks, Brits, Kiwis and Aussies.

Many different publishers have availed themselves of this public domain title with 24 editions printed since 2002 currently available.

One publisher, Applewood, has the lone currently-available pre-2000 edition in print and markets the book with this history:

“Copied out by hand as a young man aspiring to the status of Gentleman, George Washington’s 110 rules were based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English edition of these rules was available in Francis Hawkins’ Youths Behavior, or Decency in Conversation Amongst Men, which appeared in 1640, and it is from work that Washington seems to have copied. The rules as Washington wrote them out are a simplified version of this text. However much he may have simplified them, these precepts had a strong influence on Washington, who aimed to always live by them. The rules focus on self-respect and respect for others through details of etiquette. The rules offer pointers on such issues as how to dress, walk, eat in public, and address one’s superiors.”

Prices vary from $5.99 US for a simple 52-page edition to $37.95 US for a 180-page edition with commentary.

However, you can actually read all 110 rules at this Wikipedia page (#91: Make no Shew of taking great Delight in your Victuals, Feed not with Greediness; cut your Bread with a Knife, lean not on the Table neither find fault with what you Eat) … though it’s in desperate need of a Eugene-Peterson-Message-style update.   Or maybe they can get James Reimann, the guy who updated My Utmost for His Highest.

On the other hand, KJV-only advocates should feel right at home with the language this title presents.

Better yet, here’s a question to end on:  Do they still teach any of this stuff to kids today?   Maybe we need this to be more than a writing exercise.

Related posts in this blog:  Don’t Blame Seniors (Aug. 2009)

Another reason you’ve heard the word civility in the last few days:  The head honcho of the Assemblies of God removes his name from The Covenant of Civility, perhaps rather missing the whole point in the process.   Read that story here.

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