The Colgate Scene
May 2004

Bookshelf
 
Coleman B. Brown
(The Sermon Project)

The first sermon in Coleman Brown's Our Hearts are Restless Till They Find Their Rest in Thee, a collection of 25 sermons (and some "after words") looks to Mark and the Psalmist for its biblical inspiration. The Psalm at issue -- the 35th -- gives voice to the Psalmist's dislike of his enemies and his desire to have God join him in his dislike: "Let them be turned back and confounded, let them be like chaff before the wind, let their way be dark and slippery." That is just a paraphrase of a much longer invective. The passage from Mark encapsulates the passion of Christ and includes these believably human but puzzlingly divine words: "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?" Now imagine a young Coleman Brown, facing his first congregation at the University Church at Colgate. He has already disclosed in his choice of biblical inspiration the predictable anxiety of a new chaplain: What if my colleagues, my students, the members of my congregation just don't like me? Shall I wish the wrath of God upon them? And where is God, anyway? There is, to be sure, a certain irony in the juxtaposition of a preacher's anxiety with the Psalmist's anger and the despair of the crucified Christ. The gentle folk at Colgate are not likely to "requite evil for good" or heap "shame and dishonor" upon their good chaplain, and the mundane experience of boring or alienating those whose approval one covets hardly seems to rise to the level of a crucifixion. This is the kind of irony, however, that is never lost on Brown.

The peculiar genius of his preaching, evident from his first sermon to his last, lies in his willingness to acknowledge and thereby resist the temptation to look for signs of sin and grace only in unfamiliar places, in lives too distant or too sublime really to matter to one's own quotidian struggles. Brown reminds us, with an unassuming wisdom, that great things are staked in the most ordinary of hearts. Perhaps the real fear that dogs this ordinariness is not so much that one's life can end up meaning so little, but that it can end up meaning so much.

The preacher who would dare enter the heart's labyrinth has to be confessional without being exhibitionist, shrewd without being clever, compassionate without being sentimental, and learned without being studied. It is an impossible task, but because I am not Brown and because I have had the benefit of his witness and his words, I can attest to his ability to render an impossibility hopeful.

In his introduction to his sermon collection -- beautifully put together by Lisa Masotta '87 -- Brown writes that he always kept in mind when he preached "the person attending the worship service of the University Church for the first time (and maybe the last), a person not even necessarily clear why she or he was there." How many of us know, really know, why we are here? ("Here" could be in a place of worship or out of one, in or out of the congregation we call "the university" -- perhaps here is neither here nor there.) Those of us who admit to not knowing will find a friend and a fellow pilgrim in Brown. Those of us who presume to know need his faithful uncertainty even more. I venture to hope that we will all get what we need. Call that my own hopeful impossibility.

(Our Hearts are Restless Till They Find Their Rest in Thee may be purchased online at www.colgatebookstore.com.)

Jim Wetzel is chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religion.
Julia Wilcox Rathkey '84
(Three Rivers Press)

Julia Wilcox Rathkey's What Children Need When They Grieve is rooted in the worst experience of her life and the lives of her three children -- the death of her husband David Rathkey when the World Trade Center was destroyed in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. While wrestling with her own grief, Rathkey had to help her twin sons and daughter come to grips with a world that suddenly had become a much more ominous and distressing place. As she searched through the available books on children and grieving, Rathkey was unable to find a concise and realistic source for the counsel she needed to help her children cope with their loss, as well as her own. Rathkey, who is a facilitator for a counseling service in New Jersey for parents of special-needs children, decided to write her own guide.

Employing common-sense language, Rathkey asserts that in the wake of a parent's death, there are four essentials that children need most: routine, love, honesty, and security. She acknowledges that children experience intense feelings of grief that vary over time, and that these responses are not the same for all children. In addition to sharing examples from her own experiences after 9/11, Rathkey includes suggestions for how others might help a grief-stricken family, as well as a listing of mental health resources.

"I have always been in awe of those people who find the strength and courage to turn their tragedy into a force for good," former First Lady Barbara Bush wrote in her foreword to What Children Need When They Grieve. "That is what Julia did by taking the time to document her journey of grief and recovery with her children. It is a wonderful gift for those parents who, unfortunately, might one day face the same challenges she has . . . since September 11. Thanks to Julia, hopefully they will find not only some helpful advice in these pages, but some comfort in knowing that they are not alone."

Lorelei Sharkey '94 and Emma Taylor
(Plume)

You'd never be caught dead wearing (gasp!) white at a post-Labor Day bash. Nor would you dream of engaging in a Tuesday evening tryst with your booty call mate after having just bid adieu to him/her on Sunday morning.

Right?

Disarmingly frank, decidedly downtown, and tempered with whip-smart humor throughout the pages of charts, sidebars, and bold-faced tips, Nerve's Guide to Sex Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen, co-authored by Lorelei Sharkey '94, is a sanctuary for the sexually inquisitive and the etiquette minded, because in Sharkey's own words, "Ladies and gentlemen know that more bees are caught with the sweet honey of good manners."

The book is written for the single urbanite, the committed partner, and everyone in between who has imbibed on sex and all things salacious. The manual guides its reader on how to avoid the most heinous of bedroom blunders, and it answers every sexually related etiquette question from first date to bedding your mate.

Some topics are vanilla flavored; others induce blushing and mild heart palpitations. Some might well be reserved for the lascivious environs of the Playboy Mansion. But the book addresses all subjects in the sexual lexicon with a refreshing, unfettered honesty, complete with tongue-in-cheek humor.

Sharkey co-authored Nerve's Guide to Sex Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen with her bosom-bud Emma Taylor, under their pen names Em and Lo. The two are contributing editors for Nerve.com, the wildly popular online 'zine about sexual matters, and author the weekly sex and relationships column "The Em and Lo Down: Advice from Near Experts," regarded as one of the most popular features on the site. They are also regular contributors to The Guardian (U.K.), and Men's Journal, among other periodicals.

Nerve's Guide to Sex Etiquette is described by Time as "this generation's smarter, funnier, and raunchier version of The Joy of Sex." Raunchy it may be, but this is the 21st century, ladies and gents. And just because it's raunchy doesn't mean it can't be refined. So the next time you're caught with your pants down, smile: you'll know the "proper" course of action.

Dexter Morrill '60
(Chenango Valley Music Press)

Dexter Morrill's The American String Quartet: A Guide to the Recordings incorporates his multifaceted career as performer, scholar, and most notably, composer of 20th century music. His experience with recording technology also remarkably contributes to the expertise of this publication. The Charles A. Dana Professor of music, emeritus, surveys more than 650 recordings, which are organized by composer (including performers, date, timing, recording engineer, and publisher), and cross-referenced in a substantial index; he also includes informative appendices, such as a list of quartet ensemble rosters.

In addition to this volume serving as an indispensable reference tool for performance, research, and collecting, Morrill's 76-page introduction provides a detailed history of 70 years of recordings -- from the early quartet recordings of the 1930s, through the legacy of LPs, and into the digital age of compact discs. Rather than present the traditional historical, biographical, or analytic survey, Morrill alternatively examines how the recordings intersect with composition and performance, focusing on performance aspects and audio sound. This slice of music history includes relevant trends, highlights, and landmarks concerning the composers, musicians, patrons, and supporting institutions, the halls and other recording spaces, the acoustics and technology of the sound engineering, large and small recording labels, packaging and program notes, production and distribution, and comparisons of rare reissues and remastering when appropriate. Morrill's discerning ear provides a critical view and fascinating insight into the detailed and larger picture of the artistry -- both musical and engineering -- of the recordings, and his story will be illuminating to the amateur and connoisseur alike. This volume is not only a reference tool, but also a colorful interaction with the recordings as cultural objects. Further, the author provides interesting musings about the recording future for this genre.

Christina Linsenmeyer is a Ph.D. candidate in musicology at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
Don Lowe '39
(Self-published)

Anyone who thinks leading a religious life is inevitably stuffy and humorless should meet Don Lowe '39. An ordained Catholic deacon since 1977, the former purchasing manager and current bow-tie entrepreneur has compiled a collection of puns, groaners, and knee slappers that are a gentle reminder that working clean and being funny aren't mutually exclusive. Are you fed up with tales of "wardrobe malfunctions" or other unseemly events that keep turning up in media reports? You might want to spend a few minutes with Deacon Don. -- GEF

Also of interest: In Search of Jason, by Andrew Grover '75 (Xlibris); Employment with a Human Face: Balancing Efficiency, Equity, and Voice, by John W. Budd '87 (Cornell University Press); Insurrection in Milwaukee: The Right to Rise, by George Watts '44 (self-published)

Colgate bestsellers at the Colgate Bookstore*

Alumni

  1. 365 Prescriptions for the Soul — Bernie Siegel '53
  2. All the Sundays Yet to Come — Kathyrn Bertine '97
  3. American Dynasty — Kevin Phillips '61
  4. They Don't Play Hockey in Heaven — Ken Baker '92
  5. Help Me to Heal — Bernie Siegel '53
  6. The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz — David Mickenberg '76
  7. Jesus: Everything You Need to Know to Figure Him Outts — Mark Littleton '72
  8. The Distinctive Home — Jeremiah Eck '67
  9. Nerve's Guide to Sex Etiquette for Ladies and Gentlemen — Lorelei Sharkey '94 and Emma Taylor
  10. The Last Stand of the Tin Can Soldiers — James Hornfischer '87

Faculty

  1. Burning Tigris — Peter Balakian
  2. Dhammapada — John Ross Carter
  3. The Book of the Year — Anthony Aveni
  4. Hartshorne Speaking — Holmes Hartshorne
  5. Black Dog of Fate — Peter Balakian
  6. Anna Mae Wong: A Biography — Graham Russell Gao Hodges
  7. The Birth of Caribbean Civilization — O. Nigel Bolland
  8. The Pagan Dream of the Renaissance — Joscelyn Godwin
  9. June Tree — Peter Balakian
  10. Nietzsche on Truth and Philosophy — Maude Clark
* (As of April 1, 2004)
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