Sunday, June 29, 2014

Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s - Tom Doyle

A realistic, non-critical, snapshot of a pivotal time in the life of a Beatle

Man on the Run: Paul McCartney in the 1970s
Author: Tom Doyle
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 230

I have a question for fans of The Beatles, and Paul McCartney in particular, who are readers. This is directed at those who have read some or many of the volumes pertaining to the Fab Four. What is the best book on Sir Paul?

Though Man on the Run by Tom Doyle is limited in scope, roughly covering the 1970s, it deserves a place in the pantheon of Beatles’ books. Chief among the reasons is Tom Doyle, who had unprecedented access to McCartney, and more than lives up to his reputation as a sterling music journalist. He is a long-standing contributing editor to Q, and his work has also appeared in Mojo and various publications.

McCartney may have warmed to Doyle being Scottish. McCartney enjoyed “a decades-long relationship with the country,” which is explored here, beginning with the purchase of High Park Farm and the Bohemian lifestyle that evolved from it. 

Doyle combines personal interviews and source material into a succinct but detailed narrative account of the aftermath of The Beatles, specifically McCartney’s journey to establishing a new identity. Doyle makes it a fascinating read, one that is hard to put down, and one that you want to continue.

The story provides the context for every recording from McCartney (1970) to Tug of War (1982). There is brief analysis of missteps, some bizarre, and successes. Much of the latter emerges after the birth of Wings, where McCartney reached another pinnacle. The eventual demise of Wings is also included with perspective from former members.

Scattered throughout are accounts of McCartney’s on and off relationship with John Lennon, who, as is known, could be quite surly. Nevertheless, McCartney could take solace in Lennon’s last words on their collaboration, “‘There’s only been two artists I’ve ever worked with for more than a one-night stand as it were,’ he said. ‘That’s Paul McCartney and Yoko. I think that’s a pretty damn good choice. As a talent scout, I’ve done pretty damn well’” (203). Yoko also assured McCartney, telling him “how warmly John had often talked about him in private” (205).

The author provides a poignant account of the impact of Lennon’s death on McCartney. In the aftermath, he was engulfed by a range of emotions that hung like clouds over his mind. It taught him an important lesson: “I’ll never fall out with anyone again in my life for that amount of time and face the possibility of them dying before I get a chance to square with them,” McCartney confided to Denny Laine (205).

Details like this make the book an enriching read. Though it does not always cast McCartney in a favorable light, it feels authentic, getting past the legend and closer to knowing McCartney as he is. Prior to this I had only read a couple of books about The Beatles, but it’s hard to imagine a better one covering this segment of McCartney’s career. He can point to this with satisfaction, recognizing a realistic, non-critical, snapshot of a pivotal time in his life and career.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation) - Francis

Surprised by Francis

The Joy of the Gospel: Evangelii Gaudium (Apostolic Exhortation)
Author: Francis (As listed on title page)
Publisher: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Pages: 152

I share the interest of many in Francis, the simple designation the Pope uses in the Joy of the Gospel, which has an appropriate subtitle, Apostolic Exhortation. Fitting because, being addressed to Catholics from lay people to leaders, it’s a challenging call to live the life of Christ in every dimension for the sake of evangelization.

This is far from a how-to-win-souls book. Rather, it’s remarkable for its comprehension of the all-encompassing nature of evangelism, elevating it above drudgery to joy, which is as it should be. Those seeking a fresh vision can find it here under the following broad headings:

1.       The Church’s Missionary Transformation
2.       Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment
3.       The Proclamation of the Gospel
4.       The Social Dimension of Evangelization
5.       Spirit-Filled Evangelizers

Francis may not be thought of as an academic like his predecessor—on the basis of what I had read and heard I was expecting folksy inspiration along the lines of his namesake. What a surprise to find such a scholarly outlook filled with practical directives that even I as an evangelical can apply to my own life.

The simple writing style is an encouragement to me personally. I’m not verbose and neither is Francis. He gets to the point with hardly a wasted word.

Each chapter is organized under sub-heads that have numbered sections containing an average of one to four short paragraphs. The sections are consecutively numbered from the beginning of the book.

There is treasure in readily accessible form in each of these 288 divisions. I could revisit them repeatedly and be enriched each time.

The author only lost me with an occasional reference to the Eucharist and in the concluding part that deals with Mary. The latter was a slight let down.

I realize that some might not even consider this volume because of their differences with the Catholic Church. If, however, one approaches it with an open mind to glean what is helpful rather than reading to find fault, one can be the wiser for it. I don’t want to be too proud to learn from anyone. That’s not to say there is no need for discernment.

It’s the capacity that one needs when reading N. T. Wright, John MacArthur, and one of my favorites, F. W. Boreham, or any other author. We grow in our ability to separate the wheat from the chaff in part by being exposed to views that differ from our own. Sometimes we need the help of contemporaries and/or ancients to help us find our way. This is part of the value of reading books.

Whatever we think we know, in a sense we know it imperfectly. I am wrong without realizing it. I fail in many ways and see imperfectly. It’s why we need to evaluate and avail ourselves of resources that God provides.    

There is one book that towers over and has inspired this and countless others in Christendom. If we have time for nothing else, the Bible must be our lodestar. Everything else must stand in the light of it.

In the Winter/Spring 2014 issue of Image, Kathleen Norris writes, “However the cultural winds are blowing, I believe that the task for artists of faith is the same as it has always been. Whether or not the culture accepts their work, their job is to reject the false and seek the true; to shun sentiment and formulaic happy endings in favor of passion and surprise” (83). Francis may not be considered an artist, but in this work he rejects the false and seeks the true. He shuns sentiment and formulaic answers. He writes with passion and surprise, which makes this a joy to read.

Rock Gets Religion - Mark Joseph

Christians making music for the many rather than the few Rock Gets Religion: The Battle for the Soul of the Devil’s Music Auth...