Tuesday, May 17, 2011

David W. Stowe

David W. Stowe is professor of English and religious studies at Michigan State University.

His new book is No Sympathy for the Devil: Christian Pop Music and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism.

Late last month I asked Stowe what he was reading. His reply:
Currently I’m reading two books by Lansing-area writers. I don’t often read local authors (apart from verbiage generated at my workplace) let alone two simultaneously. The first, In God’s Shadow, is by Douglas Gershon Moffat, an author I met for the first time at his book signing in Lansing. The novel is a fictional retelling of the Exodus story from the point-of-view of a 12-year-old named B’tzalel and his parents, two younger sisters, and grandparents. The men all work in one of Pharaoh’s metalworking shops. The family finds itself hurriedly uprooting from its village in Egypt as the famous Biblical plagues wreak havoc around them. I’m at the point where the Canaanites have crossed the Sea of Reeds and are entering the desert to the East. Eventually B’tzalel is going to play a pivotal role in the building of the Tabernacle. This book is written for younger readers, but so were the Harry Potter books. In God’s Shadow is well crafted, loaded with plausible detail about daily life some three millennia ago. The dialogue is notably crisp and witty, and Gershom captures well the voices and mundane frictions that run through B’tzalel’s family. The animals’ characters, especially the cat, are nicely developed as well.

The other book, Radicals in the Their Own Time, is by my good friend Michael Lawrence, who teaches at the MSU law school. The book is a wide-ranging historical meditation on American liberty in the form of a group biography of five radicals: Roger Williams, Tom Paine, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Vine Deloria. What connects these five figures, according to Lawrence, is their courageous dedication to the free expression of unpopular ideas in the face of religious orthodoxy and state power. Quoting liberally from their writings, Lawrence succeeds in creating good biographical narratives, in some cases reconstructing scenes and dialogues on the basis of limited evidence. As someone whose professional writing centers on articles for law journals and op-ed pages, Mike has done a remarkable job on the larger canvass of a book-length history of ideas. Reading the book makes me feel a bit like a proud godfather. A few short years ago we began getting together for beers to talk over our respective book aspirations: the ingredients of a successful proposal, whether to use an agent, what qualities might help our books “cross over.” This always surprises me about book writing; it feels like such an endless task, and it is, but then one day it’s suddenly over.
Learn more about David Stowe's No Sympathy for the Devil at the the University of North Carolina Press website, and visit the official No Sympathy for the Devil Facebook page.

The Page 99 Test: No Sympathy for the Devil.

--Marshal Zeringue