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Augustine's "Confessions": The Biography of a Book

by Garry Wills

In this brief and incisive book, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Garry Wills tells the story of the Confessions--what motivated Augustine to dictate it, how it asks to be read, and the many ways it has been misread in the one-and-a-half millennia since it was composed. Following Wills's biography of Augustine and his translation of the Confessions, this is an unparalleled introduction to one of the most important books in the Christian and Western traditions. Understandably fascinated by the story of Augustine's life, modern readers have largely succumbed to the temptation to read the Confessions as autobiography. But, Wills argues, this is a mistake. The book is not autobiography but rather a long prayer, suffused with the language of Scripture and addressed to God, not man. Augustine tells the story of his life not for its own significance but in order to discern how, as a drama of sin and salvation leading to God, it fits into sacred history. "We have to read Augustine as we do Dante," Wills writes, "alert to rich layer upon layer of Scriptural and theological symbolism." Wills also addresses the long afterlife of the book, from controversy in its own time and relative neglect during the Middle Ages to a renewed prominence beginning in the fourteenth century and persisting to today, when the Confessions has become an object of interest not just for Christians but also historians, philosophers, psychiatrists, and literary critics. With unmatched clarity and skill, Wills strips away the centuries of misunderstanding that have accumulated around Augustine's spiritual classic.

Bush's Fringe Government

by Garry Wills

One of America's foremost historians looks at the state of American democracy and the influence of the Catholic Church. How is it possible for minorities to rule majorities? An answer can be found by looking at both George Bush's Republican Party and the Catholic Church. Bush's Fringe Government is an inquiry into how an extremely conservative fringe in these organizations, although in the minority, have a disproportionate influence on a broad range of issues, and use their influence to govern the majority. By exploring the ways in which the election of Pope Benedict XVI has increased the influence of very conservative Catholics in the Vatican, Garry Wills offers a lucid and striking explanation of the political coalition between Catholics and evangelicals - a partnership that has been instrumental in electing Republicans in the United States and keeping conservative issues in the forefront of American political discourse. As Wills puts it, "How do you govern an apostate nation? When the entire culture is corrupted, the country can only be morally governed in spite of itself. A collection of aggrieved minorities must seize the levers of power in every way possible. One must govern not from a broad consensual center but from activist fringes of morality." Juxtaposing Karl Rove and the Bush administration's political strategy to that of conservatives in the Catholic Church, Wills' examination of extremist fringe elements is a major piece of political analysis by one of our most highly regarded commentators. Its timely publication is essential reading for the 2006 elections in the United States.

Certain Trumpets

by Garry Wills

In his Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Lincoln at Gettysburg, Garry Wills reframed our understanding of Lincoln the leader. Wills breathed new life into words we thought we knew and revealed much about a President so mythologized but often misunderstood. He showed how Lincoln's personality was less at issue than his followers' values and Lincoln's exquisite ability, in a mere 272 words, to reach them, to give the whole nation "a new birth of freedom," and to weave a spell that has not yet been broken." "Now Wills extends his extraordinary quality of observation and iconoclastic scholarship to examine the nature of leadership itself, perhaps history's most pivotal and emotionally charged topic. Almost the first thing people say about leaders is that we used to have them but now do not. Some blame this on the press, or on television, or on education. Others say we are manipulated, not led. Still others pore over book after book, searching for the perfect exemplar to imitate in order to achieve success." "Wills offers a wide range of portraits drawn largely, but not exclusively, from American history and representing revolutionary, political, religious, business, artistic, sports, and military leaders - Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Andrew Young, Napoleon, King David, Ross Perot, George Washington, Socrates, Mary Baker Eddy, Carl Stotz, Martha Graham, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesare Borgia, and Dorothy Day - each shown in the act of leading his or her followers. And after each example, Wills also provides an anti-type to help define the type better.". "He moves beyond the traditional study of elected officials and business giants, past the usual emphasis on glamour, forceful personality, or technique, to look at leaders of different scope and particular talents. Wills shows how leaders are shaped by the very circumstances in which they must shape others' actions. No one, after all, can be a leader without followers. Only the vital interplay of wills between leaders and followers can direct them both toward a goal." "In Certain Trumpets leadership is not a static pose but becomes an exhilarating partnership. Once again Garry Wills has transformed the lens through which we see our leaders, our society, and ourselves.

Chesterton

by Garry Wills

"Part of a literary circle that included H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, Hillaire Belloc, and Max Beerbohm, G. K. Chesterton (1874-1936) wrote essays of social criticism for contemporary journals, literary criticism (including notable books on Browning, Dickens, and Shaw), and works of theology and religious argument, but may have been best known for his Father Brown mysteries. Chesterton's interest in Catholic Christianity, first expressed in Orthodoxy, led to his conversion from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism in 1922. His classic Saint Francis of Assisi and the equally acclaimed Saint Thomas Aquinas confirmed his reputation as a writer with the rare ability to simultaneously entertain, inform, and enlighten readers. This revised edition of Garry Wills's finely crafted biography includes updates to the text and a new Introduction by the author. "--BOOK JACKET. Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Confessions of a Conservative

by Garry Wills

Part autobiographical account and part essay on the subject of politics, written by on Garry Willis -- one of America's best political writers.

Head and Heart: American Christianities

by Garry Wills

An examination of Christianity's place in American life across the broad sweep of this country's history, from the Puritans to the presidential administration of George W. Bush. The struggle within American Christianity, Garry Wills argues, now and throughout our country's history, is between the head and the heart: between reason and emotion, Enlightenment and Evangelism. Why has this been so? How has the tension between the two poles played out, and with what consequences, over the past 400 years? How "Christian" is America, after all? Garry Wills brings a lifetime's worth of thought about these questions to bear on a magnificent historical reckoning that offers much needed perspective on some of the most contentious issues of our time. A religious revolution occurred in America in the 18th century, one that saw the emergence of an Enlightenment religious culture whose hallmarks were tolerance for other faiths and a belief that religion was a matter best divorced from political institutions--the proverbial "separation of church and state." Wills shows us just how incredibly radical a departure this separation was: there was simply no precedent for it. To put this leap in perspective, Wills provides a grounding in the pre-Enlightenment religion that preceded it, beginning with the early Puritans. He then provides a thrillingly clear unpacking of the steps, particularly Madison's and Jefferson's, by which church-state separation was enshrined in the Constitution, and reveals the great irony of the efforts of today's Religious Right to blur the lines between the two. In fact, it is precisely that separation that has allowed religion in America to flourish since the disestablishment of religion created a free market, as it were, and competition for souls led to the profusion of denominations across the length and breadth of the land. As Wills examines the key movements and personalities that have transformed America's religious landscape, we see again and again the same pattern emerge: a cooling of popular religious fervor followed by a grassroots explosion in evangelical activity, generally at a time of great social transformation and anxiety. But such forces inevitably go too far, provoking a backlash as is happening right now with the forces of Creationism and the anti-abortion fundamentalists. Garry Wills closes with a penetrating dissection of the Religious Right's current machinations and the threat they pose to the enlightened religion that has proved to be such a fertile and enduring force throughout American history. But in the end, Wills's abiding message is to be vigilant against the triumph of emotions over reason, but to know that the tension between the two is in fact necessary, inevitable, and unending.

Henry Adams and the Making of America

by Garry Wills

One of our greatest historians offers a surprising new view of the greatest historian of the nineteenth century, Henry Adams.Wills showcases Henry Adams's little-known but seminal study of the early United States and elicits from it fresh insights on the paradoxes that roil America to this day. Adams drew on his own southern fixation, his extensive foreign travel, his political service in Lincoln's White House, and much more to invent the study of history as we know it. His nine-volume chronicle of America from 1800 to 1816 established new standards for employing archival sources, firsthand reportage, eyewitness accounts, and other techniques that have become the essence of modern history.Adams's innovations went beyond the technical; he posited an essentially ironic view of the legacy of Jefferson and Madison. As is well known, they strove to shield the young country from "foreign entanglements," a standing army, a central bank, and a federal bureaucracy, among other hallmarks of "big government." Yet by the end of their tenures they had permanently entrenched all of these things in American society. This is the "American paradox" that defines us today: the idealized desire for isolation and political simplicity battling against the inexorable growth and intermingling of political, economic, and military forces. As Wills compellingly shows, the ironies spawned two centuries ago still inhabit our foreign policy and the widening schisms over economic and social policy.Ambitious in scope, nuanced in detail and argument, Henry Adams and the Making of America throws brilliant light on how history is made -- in both senses of the term.

John Wayne's America

by Garry Wills

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Lincoln at Gettysburg brings his eloquence, wit, and on-target perceptions of American life and politics to this fascinating, well-drawn protrait of a twentieth-century hero. In this work of great originality-the biography of an idea-Garry Wills shows how John Wayne came to embody Amercian values and influenced our cultoure to a degree unmatched by any other public figure of his time. In Wills's hands, Waynes story is tranformed into a compelling narrative about the intersection of popular entertainment and political realities in mid-twentieth-century America.

John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity

by Garry Wills

For many people, John Wayne was less an actor than a symbol -- a fascinating, unparalleled phenomenon who, 16 years after his death, remains America's favorite movie star. In this new kind of book -- a biography of an idea -- the bestselling author of "Lincoln at Gettysburg" shows how much Americans invested their emotions in this embodiment of their deepest myths.

The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power

by Garry Wills

For more than a decade, The Kennedy Imprisonment has stood as the definitive historical and psychological analysis of the Kennedy clan and its crippling conception of power.

Lead Time: A Journalist's Education

by Garry Wills

The Pulitzer-winning Wills (Lincoln at Gettysburg, Why I Am a Catholic) updates his 1983 memoir with a slightly puzzled new preface: "As a sedentary old man, sitting at a desk and writing, I find it amusing to read about a younger self with the energy to chase around reporting on demonstrations, riots, communes, conventions, and political brawls," he writes. The eloquent essays that follow were written between 1968 and 1982, spanning culture, politics, and social mores; presidents, protesters, and religious figures.

Lincoln at Gettysburg

by Garry Wills

The power of words has rarely been given a more compelling demonstration than in the Gettysburg Address. Lincoln was asked to memorialize the gruesome battle. Instead, he gave the whole nation "a new birth of freedom" in the space of a mere 272 words. His entire life and previous training, and his deep political experience went into this, his revolutionary masterpiece.By examining both the address and Lincoln in their historical moment and cultural frame, Wills breathes new life into words we thought we knew, and reveals much about a president so mythologized but often misunderstood. Wills shows how Lincoln came to change the world and to effect an intellectual revolution, how his words had to and did complete the work of the guns, and how Lincoln wove a spell that has not yet been broken.

Martial's Epigrams

by Garry Wills

Bawdy and biting epigrams, ready for enjoyment. One of literature's greatest satirists, Martial earned his livelihood by excoriating the follies and vices of his time, and set a pattern that satirists have admired and imitated across the ages.

Mr. Jefferson's University

by Garry Wills

In the paperback edition of the critically acclaimed hardcover, bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize-winner Garry Wills explores Thomas Jefferson's final and favorite achievement, the University of Virginia. The University of Virginia is one of America's greatest architectural treasures and one of Thomas Jefferson's proudest achievements. At his request his headstone says nothing of his service as America's first Secretary of State or its third President. It says simply: "Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of American Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia." For this political genius was a supremely gifted artist as well, and of all Jefferson's stunning accomplishments, the school he built in Charlottesville is perhaps the most perfect expression of the man himself: as leader, as architect, and as philosopher. In this engrossing, perceptive book, Garry Wills once again displays the keen intelligence and eloquent style that have won him great critical praise as he explores the creation of a masterpiece, tracing its evolution from Jefferson's idea of an "academical village" into a classically beautiful campus. Mr. Jefferson's University is at once a wonderful chronicle of the birth of a national institution and a deft portrait of the towering American who brought it to life. "There is much auspicious history to explore here, and Wills does so with great narrative skills." --Richmond Times-Dispatch "His command of the subject is formidable." --Los Angeles Times

A Necessary Evil

by Garry Wills

In A Necessary Evil, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Garry Wills shows that distrust of government is embedded deep in the American psyche. From the revolt of the colonies against king and parliament to present-day tax revolts, militia movements, and debates about term limits, Wills shows that American antigovernment sentiment is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of our history. By debunking some of our fondest myths about the Founding Fathers, the Constitution, and the taming of the frontier, Wills shows us how our tendency to hold our elected government in disdain is misguided.

A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government

by Garry Wills

In "A Necessary Evil," Wills scrutinizes our anti-governmental attitudes from the revolt of the colonies against king and parliament to the present justifications for tax revolts, gun owning, and term limits.

Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power

by Garry Wills

Analysis of the impact of the three-fifths rule.

Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-Made Man

by Garry Wills

Analysis of Nixon's life and works to 1968.

Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer

by Garry Wills

Illuminating and provocative, Outside Looking In is a compelling chronicle of an original thinker at work in remarkable times. With his dazzling style and journalist's eye for detail, Wills brings history to life, whether it's the civil rights movement; the protests against the Vietnam War; the presidential campaigns of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton; or the set of Oliver Stone's Nixon.

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit

by Garry Wills

Wills (history, Northwestern U.) characterizes the modern papacy as steadfastly unwilling to face the truth about itself, its past, and its relations with others. Citing the Holocaust, discrimination against women, the assertion that natural law dictates its sexual code, and other matters, he argues that even when the Vatican tries to be honest, it ends up resorting to historical distortions and evasions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

The Rosary

by Garry Wills

A simple strand of beads and a crucifix, the rosary has been an aid to religious worship for centuries. Garry Wills looks at the meaning of the beads and at the mysteries, or events, in the lives of Jesus and Mary that the beads are meant to signify.

Saint Augustine

by Garry Wills

For centuries, Augustine's writings have moved and fascinated readers. With the fresh, keen eye of a writer whose own intellectual analysis has won him a Pulitzer Prize, Garry Wills examines this famed fourth-century bishop and seminal thinker whose grounding in classical philosophy informed his influential interpretation of the Christian doctrines of mind and body, wisdom and God. "Saint Augustine" explores both the great ruminator on the human condition and the everyday man who set pen to parchment. It challenges many misconceptions -- among them those regarding his early sexual excesses. Here, for students, Christians and voyagers into the new millennium, is a lively and incisive portrait of one who helped shape our thought.

Saint Augustine's Sin

by Garry Wills

According to Pulitzer Prize winner Garry Wills, most readers of Augustine interpret his meditation on sin in the "Confessiones" as an indication of his obsession with sex. But as Wills suggests in his discussion of book two of Augustine's influential work, sexual transgression is not Augustine's main focus as he reflects on the nature of human sinfulness. Instead, Augustine seeks to understand man's power to transgress-how it is that good creatures can choose evil deeds. He describes his own shame after participating in a minor theft as a teenager and interprets this act--and all other acts of sin--in light of the three founding sins of the Bible: the fallen angels' rebellion, the temptation of Adam, and Cain's fratricide. With a brilliant introduction and notes throughout, this is a rewarding interpretation of a seminal work translated with new vividness and authority.

Under God: Religion and American Politics

by Garry Wills

"Under God" begins with the 1988 presidential contest, an election that included two ministers and a senator accused of sin, Wills surveys our history to show the continuity of present controversies with past religious struggles and argues that the secular standards of the Founding Fathers have been misunderstood. He shows that despite reactionary fire-breathers and fanatics, religion has often been a progressive force in American politics and explains why the policy of a separate church and state has, ironically, made the position of the church stronger.

Under God: Religion and American Politics

by Garry Wills

In Under God, Garry Wills, one of our liveliest and most eminent political observers, moves through the tapestry of American history, illuminating the instances where American politics and American religion have collided. Beginning with the 1988 presidential contest, an election that included two ministers and a senator accused of sin, Wills surveys our history to show the continuity of present controversies with past religious struggles and argues that the secular standards of the Founding Fathers have been misunderstood. He shows that despite reactionary fire-breathers and fanatics, religion has often been a progressive force in American politics and explains why the policy of a separate church and state has, ironically, made the position of the church stronger. Marked by the extraordinary quality of observation that has defined the work of Garry Wills, Under God is a rich, original look at why religion and politics will never be separate in the United States.

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