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wTuesday, May 18, 2004

LOTT ON WAUGH: In my latest for Books & Culture/Christianity Today Online, I tackle Alexander Waugh's new (well, new in the U.S.) book on God. Honestly, I was harder on him than I expected to be:

The Karen Armstrong blurb on the cover speaks to how very differently books are marketed in the UK and the U.S. On the other side of the pond, there is a concentrated reading public for publishers to pitch to as a whole. In the U.S., the market is spread out and segmented, especially as regards religious books. An Armstrong endorsement signals what kind of book this is, inviting readers of a more liberal, progressive bent and shooing most traditionalists away. But is it, in fact, that kind of a book?

Hard to say. First, it's British, and was written in and for that highly ironical non-churchgoing context. I'm as much an Anglophile as the next bloke, but sometimes I lack the right sense to tell if the author is having us on. Second, it's written by a Waugh, and they're always up to something. So when Evelyn's grandson discusses sexual ethics and Onan, well, I'm not sure how to take it when he refers to Catholic moral teaching on the subject as an abject embarrassment: typical snobby British putdown, or something else entirely?

posted by Jeremy at 8:07 AM