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FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA)
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Black Holes: The Edge of Space, the End of Time
Black Holes: The Edge of Space, the End of Time
by Walter Sullivan
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
6 used & new from CDN$ 2.78

4.0 out of 5 stars Through a glass, darkly..., March 9 2006
I first read Walter Sullivan's book on black holes almost 25 years ago, when it first came out. Inspired by the Carl Sagan series 'Cosmos', I became fascinated as an adolescent with astronomy and physics. Sullivan's book was one of the early books I read because it is a fairly popular account, written with the general reader in mind, short on equations but full of information and ideas.
Sullivan covers much of mid-twentieth-century astronomy in this text with broad strokes. he looks at the general idea of black holes as the end result of supermassive stars' evolutionary patterns. This also involves a discussion of modern physics ideas such as relativity and warped spacetime. Sullivan also explores the phenomena of quasars, cosmic background radiation, and various speculations about the nature and shape (and final fate) of the universe.
Recently there have been announcements about Hawking's revision to his thinking about black holes. These ideas are not entirely new, even though they may be new to the public, and doubtless the details are new. The idea of evaporating black holes, white holes, and naked singularities are addressed here by Sullivan. Black holes don't necessarily trap everything for all time, and don't necessarily last forever. Hawking had originally thought that the evaporating radiation did not convey any information about what is inside the black hole -- it is on this point that his recent speculation has changed.
Finally, Sullivan explores the nature of time, the idea that black holes may be far more common than previously thought (these ideas seem to have been superseded by theories of dark matter), and the challenge to future scientists to discover more and more about the darkest and most dense mystery around.
Walter Sullivan was described as the Dean of American Science Writers. A journalist by profession, he spent many years as editor of the New York Times. He accompanied expeditions to Antarctica, and served as foreign correspondent in many parts of the world. He won the National Science Foundation's award for distinguished public service in 1978, after spending 20 years in writing about science topics.
Sullivan's text is very readable (his journalistic background does him good service here), and the book is full of charts, graphs, and pictures (although direct photographic evidence of black holes is difficult to come by, then or now, so don't expect to see a picture here).

Black Holes Quasars 2nd Edn
Black Holes Quasars 2nd Edn
by Harry L. Shipman
Edition: Hardcover
10 used & new from CDN$ 18.92

4.0 out of 5 stars An attractive subject..., March 9 2006
Harry Shipman of the University of Delaware wrote this book on black holes, quasars and other astronomical phenomena before they had become (if you'll forgive the pun) attractive subjects. One of the stated purposes, from his introduction, is to supplement classical introductions to astronomy -- most introductory surveys of astronomy cover these subjects as a matter of course now, but this was not so in the 1970s.
Despite the age of the text and the fact that many discoveries and advances have been made since the original publication date of this book, it still provides an interesting and accessible survey to some of the more interesting objects and topics in astronomy. Shipman designed this book to be a supplement to introductory astronomy texts, a stand-alone volume for those without significant scientific background, and a primer for those who were preparing for more advanced work in the sciences.
The introduction begins with preliminary terminology and definitions, a brief survey of astronomy and the related physics concepts. It also looks at scientific method. This introduction leads to the first primary topic -- black holes. Shipman covers the aspects of gravity, stellar growth and decay, the different kinds of star 'death' (white dwarf, neutron star, pulsar), and devotes several chapters to aspects of the black hole itself. These address the event horizon and changes there, searching for black holes and issues of detection, and future directions in research. Shipman's general descriptions are still very good scientifically.
The second primary section addresses the phenomena of galaxies and quasars. Issues of the expanding universe, distances to quasars, redshift and its causes, different types of galaxies, and observational problems are addressed in the several chapters. Quasars may or may not be related to black holes, just as active galaxies might be fueled by black holes.
The third section pulls the information together, looking at broader cosmological issues. The life cycle of the universe is presented, concentrating primarily on the Big Bang theory. The issues of dating the universe, based on different kinds of observational data, and the large scale structure of the universe from galactic clusters to superclusters are set forth. Issues in the final fate of the universe (total mass, expansion rate changes, etc.) are explored -- this has become a hot topic for cosmology today, too.
Shipman writes in an engaging and interesting style, and sets forth complicated issues in easy-to-grasp ways. This was one of the earliest books of astronomy I read, and I still refer to it on a frequent basis.

Black Holes, Quasars and the Universe
Black Holes, Quasars and the Universe
by Harry L. Shipman
Edition: Hardcover
10 used & new from CDN$ 3.01

4.0 out of 5 stars An attractive subject..., March 9 2006
Harry Shipman of the University of Delaware wrote this book on black holes, quasars and other astronomical phenomena before they had become (if you'll forgive the pun) attractive subjects. One of the stated purposes, from his introduction, is to supplement classical introductions to astronomy -- most introductory surveys of astronomy cover these subjects as a matter of course now, but this was not so in the 1970s.
Despite the age of the text and the fact that many discoveries and advances have been made since the original publication date of this book, it still provides an interesting and accessible survey to some of the more interesting objects and topics in astronomy. Shipman designed this book to be a supplement to introductory astronomy texts, a stand-alone volume for those without significant scientific background, and a primer for those who were preparing for more advanced work in the sciences.
The introduction begins with preliminary terminology and definitions, a brief survey of astronomy and the related physics concepts. It also looks at scientific method. This introduction leads to the first primary topic -- black holes. Shipman covers the aspects of gravity, stellar growth and decay, the different kinds of star 'death' (white dwarf, neutron star, pulsar), and devotes several chapters to aspects of the black hole itself. These address the event horizon and changes there, searching for black holes and issues of detection, and future directions in research. Shipman's general descriptions are still very good scientifically.
The second primary section addresses the phenomena of galaxies and quasars. Issues of the expanding universe, distances to quasars, redshift and its causes, different types of galaxies, and observational problems are addressed in the several chapters. Quasars may or may not be related to black holes, just as active galaxies might be fueled by black holes.
The third section pulls the information together, looking at broader cosmological issues. The life cycle of the universe is presented, concentrating primarily on the Big Bang theory. The issues of dating the universe, based on different kinds of observational data, and the large scale structure of the universe from galactic clusters to superclusters are set forth. Issues in the final fate of the universe (total mass, expansion rate changes, etc.) are explored -- this has become a hot topic for cosmology today, too.
Shipman writes in an engaging and interesting style, and sets forth complicated issues in easy-to-grasp ways. This was one of the earliest books of astronomy I read, and I still refer to it on a frequent basis.

The Portable Chekhov
The Portable Chekhov
by Anton Chekhov
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.61
50 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Vast..., March 9 2006
This review is from: The Portable Chekhov (Paperback)
Like so many Russian writers, Anton Chekov was very prolific, with a literary output seemingly designed to match the vastness of the country of his origin. Chekov was indeed born the son of a serf, whose grandfather managed to the redeem the family into freedom; Chekov himself was largely a self-made man, valuing education if not the particular educators he was exposed to a child, and learned the aspects of the different levels of Russian society, as well as a good deal about foreign societies, most particularly the Greeks. Chekov's family moved to Moscow (so his father could avoid debtor's prison in his hometown), where Chekov became a medical student; once, to buy food for the family, he wrote a small piece for a local weekly paper. The rest, as one might say, is history. He did in fact finish medical school, but his life was set on a different path.
Chekov is perhaps best known for his short stories and his plays. He wrote literally hundreds of short stories. He was admired in St. Petersburg, the intellectual centre of the country, and won critical prizes and made a nice living from his writing. Chekov spent time in various pursuits that might seem rather strange -- traveling to the Siberian plains and to Sakhalin, to see the prison conditions; he headed a hospital, but found this interfered with his writing. He revered Tolstoy, but could not become an ardent disciple. Always in ill health, he traveled abroad to France, returning to Russia to live in the south, near Yalta, which he always considered no better than a warm Siberia. In all, Chekov lived a varied life, and was convinced that, within a year or so of his death, no one would be reading him any more. He died in 1904, at the age of 44. His writing career spanned some twenty-five years. While his reputation was eclipsed briefly during the Russian Revolutionary period, his reputation remains stronger than ever.
Chekov's short story career was always strong, which is somewhat surprising to modern Western readers. His stories tend to lack strong narrative plots and strong characters. Almost universally they are set in Russia, dealing with the various peoples he encountered in his life, incorporating the feelings and spirit of the place. Many of the stories seem somewhat desperate and desolate, with a quiet resignation as big as the country. Chekov's career as a playwright got off to a relatively slow start, but by the end of his life, his plays were greatly admired and regularly performed in Russia and beyond. Indeed, his 44th birthday was an occasion of the opening of his last play, 'The Cherry Orchard', included in this anthology.
Editor and translator Avrahm Yarmolinsky has an introductory essay, in which he describes Chekov as the 'knell of old Russia' rather than a leader into the new Russia. When reading his stories and plays, one gets a sense for the pre-Revolutionary Russia, the old guard. Never one to go in for novels, which he considered required far more development than he thought he had, Chekov is the scene crafter for late imperial Russia. Interesting, stimulating -- it is hard to anthologise Chekov, and I take a star off here because some of my favourite stories and my favourite play ('The Seagull') are not here, but I can understand the difficulty in deciding.
This anthology includes 40 pages of correspondence; Chekov's correspondence was vast (he wrote his wife nearly every day in the last several years of his life, for example), so again, any representative sample must needs be selective.
This is a good, one-volume introduction to a great Russian writer, one whose influence continues to grow.

Brokeback Mountain (Souvenirs de Brokeback Mountain) (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
Brokeback Mountain (Souvenirs de Brokeback Mountain) (Widescreen) (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Jake Gyllenhaal
Price: CDN$ 7.49
47 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mountaintop experience, March 9 2006
I recall a short story version of Brokeback Mountain many years ago in a major periodical (alas, I can't recall the periodical). I had an idea that it would, in the fullness of time, become a major motion picture, and that it has. It is an award-winning film already, and looks set for some sort of Oscar recognition. The film has garnered more Oscar nominations than any other this year.
However, in the hype surrounding the film, those interested would be wise to look at the book. There is much more depth here than in the film, much more about the interior workings of the main characters and what they must endure. This is ultimately not a love story, as the marketing has been spinning the film, but rather an expose on the dangers and drawbacks of living in the closet. For the purposes of this story, Annie Proulx has juxtaposed two diametrically opposite cultures in the American psyche - the gay culture and the cowboy culture (although history is, as it often is, in fact rather different from what the Hollywood-created current remembrance of it is). One comes to wonder at the resistance that all characters seem to have for breaking free of their bonds; ultimately, none of the relationships are satisfying, and there is an emotional desolation as wide and spare as brush land and prairies of the American West.
The lead characters meet while working for the summer as wranglers and watchers over herds. They form a bond that renews at regular intervals during their lives, lives that go on to other, more traditional and socially acceptable settings. Each gets married, each has children, each embarks (in one way or another) in a working life that would seem to preclude the other, but yet the tie that binds them draws them together again on a regular basis.
The closet theme is heightened in the lead characters, but in fact serves as a metaphor for readers who might not fit in that particular closet - we all have skeletons in our closets, it seems, and in fact, we all have our own closets in which we hide and live out part of our lives.
This theme is played in out in several scenes of the film - Ennis Del Mar finding his shirt intertwined with Jack's shirt in Jack's closet, which Ennis then proceeds to put into his own closet.
The last scene is perhaps the most powerful of all, drifting to a final image. Ennis' daughter, having announced her marriage plans, drives off into the dusty plain; Ennis is living in isolation in his own trailer which has next to no furniture (his daughter comments that he needs a chair); and the very final shot is of a closet door, kept closed until Ennis is alone, with a view of the mountains in the far distance just outside the window beyond.
In terms of overall cinematography, this is a beautiful film. Ang Lee's direction has provided wonderful panoramic views of the mountains and the plains, the not-so-wild west of America, mid-century. This is a world very different from either coast - the trends of the cities in New England and California have little effect on life here, which goes on generation after generation with an unrelenting sameness.
Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal, fresh from his role as a marine in 'Jarhead') and Heath Ledger (whose film 'Casanova', playing at the same time in the same cinema in my town, cast him in a very different role) play the leads of Jack Twist and Ennis del Mar, two down-on-their-luck wranglers who get a summer job camping out with sheep herds in the mountains - the kind of 24 hour/7 day-per-week job that virtually nobody wants. Jack is the extrovert, whereas to call Ennis an introvert might win the Oscar for understatement. At one point, Jack points this out, after a conversation that only lasted for about a minute.
Jack Twist: 'That's more words than you've spoke in the past two weeks.'
Ennis Del Mar: 'Hell, that's the most I've spoke in a year.'
Ledger's portrayal of Ennis is remarkable in that Ennis seems to be almost inarticulate. Everything is said in a grumble, a low-level, low-syllable-count manner. Gyllenhaal's portrayal of Jack as the ants-in-his-pants, high-energy bronco buster cowboy is also very enthralling. Jack's passion for many things comes through, and through the film we come to discover (as Ennis comes to discover) that this passion comes with a high price.
Anne Hathaway and Michelle Williams play the wives of Jack and Ennis, respectively. Both want 'regular' lives, and both discover there is more to their husbands' relationship than fishing-buddy friendship in different ways. In some ways, the film reminded me of another film, 'Same Time Next Year', in which a couple gets together on a regular basis while maintaining stable, family relationships elsewhere. However, there is a price to be paid for leading such double lives, and we see this manifested in different ways in the lives of Ennis, Jack, and their wives and children. Again, the issue of the closet comes into play.
Of course, the big 'issue' for the film is homosexuality and homophobia. That this takes place within the almost-sacred genre of the American Western also adds to the heightened interest - the mythology of the American cowboy being a super-macho figure has already been developed as a gay stereotype by such groups as the Village People and what sociologists might call costume-culture communities. The unspoken secret that rarely made even a mention on Hollywood screens was that cowboys, being isolated much of the time, and in male-only communities when they did have company, almost certainly had a higher incidence of same-sex expression than we have come to believe through the mythology.
Ennis and Jack do put physical and emotional expression to their passion and to their love for each other, but societal expectations and personal feelings (what some term internalised homophobia) work to keep them apart and leading separate (and dual) lives throughout the twenty-year span of the film.
There is no happy ending to this film - I left the cinema with a feeling about as desolate as the dry and dusty plains shown in many of the scenes. I found bits of the music score coming back to me for days afterwards, and each time this happened, I would feel a bit more sombre, and a little bit lost for words. The original themes by Gustavo Santaolalla and Marcelo Zarvos are very well done, and this is a soundtrack I mean to get.
I won't predict that it will win the best picture Oscar, but I am not surprised it is one of the odds-on favourites for winning.

Make the Word Come Alive: Lessons from Laity
Make the Word Come Alive: Lessons from Laity
by Mary Alice Mulligan
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.94
14 used & new from CDN$ 7.41

5.0 out of 5 stars Lively insights, March 8 2006
'Make the Word Come Alive' is the fourth volume in the Channels of Listening series, a Lilly Endowment funded study to learn how people listen to, understand and respond to sermons in different churches. The study involved a diverse collection of people, congregations and scholars at my seminary and elsewhere. The first three volumes have been published over the last year or so, and include 'Listening to Listeners', 'Hearing The Sermon: Relationship / Content / Feeling', and 'Believing In Preaching: What Listeners Hear In Sermons'.
With this particular volume, the data collected is used to identify shared elements. 'The twelve chapters of this book lift up twelve qualities that many listeners find appealing in sermons.' The purpose is to advise preachers to help them provide more effective sermons.
To be sure, there are far more than twelve elements to a good sermon. However, those listed here are the ones that most consistently were mentioned across the board by interviewees. Also, there is a great diversity of opinion present in the data collected by this study, and there is no one-size-fits-all kind of formula or construct for effective preaching. 'Indeed, within the same chapter, we cite interviewees who say they are turned off by some of the very qualities of preaching others report here as inviting.' As a preacher myself, I can testify to the validity of this observation - when I invited my congregation board to critique my preaching as part of a study, there were elements of my own preaching that some simultaneously strongly liked and strongly disliked.
Included among the items highlighted here are elements of spiritual and intellectual substance, embodiment and ownership, and practical effective speaking tips. These are on some level often common sensical - preachers who live the preaching (practice what they preach) are probably more effective or seen to have more authority; making the sermon clear in simple (as opposed to simplistic) and clear language will be better received than sermons designed to impress the congregation with the theological complexity of the preacher's education. That being said, people do want theological substance and honest answers, and don't want censored sermons that shy away from complex or real world issues.
As I was reading through this book (and I must confess, I had already read the earlier three volumes in the series, as well as a number of other books by authors Ron Allen and Mary Alice Mulligan), I kept seeing themes that were already familiar, but were brought into great clarity. I think that most preachers will find things that they recognise about themselves, both in things that they are doing right as well as elements for improvement.
Authors Allen and Mulligan draw extensively on the feedback of the interviewees for this volume - 263 of them - and use direct quotes from them frequently. Many preachers should be able to see these quotations as possible if not likely from their own congregation members; there were times when I wondered if some of my own congregants were among those being interviewed, the quotes seem so appropriate for certain individuals in my own community.
This book is the kind of book most likely read by preachers and seminarians, but will also be of benefit to those who are listeners of sermons, to enable them to be more aware of their own experiences and responses. This is not the kind of book that is designed to give preachers a system for producing lightning-rod sermons every Sunday - however, congregation members often don't expect this. According to one interviewee:
'I don't expect every sermon every week to be stunning. A lot of times sermons grow on you. You come to understand a person's way of preaching. They can have a power over a period of weeks that is maybe not stunning the first time.'
Allen likens this to a slow drip in a faucet that has negligible effects in the short term, but dramatic effects in the longer term. Perhaps the example of a stream carving a valley in the desert would also be appropriate here - over the course of time, the simple stream can form a Grand Canyon where none was before, but it is not the particular flow of water on any given day that achieves this, but rather the accumulation of effects over time.
I was fortunate to have both Mary Alice Mulligan and Ron Allen as professors in preaching classes at my seminary. This text reminds me of the power of their teaching, and will serve the dedicated reader well.

101 Reasons to Be Episcopalian
101 Reasons to Be Episcopalian
by Louie Crew
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 11.66
34 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scripture, Tradition and 101 Reasons, March 8 2006
It is somewhat of an irony that I, a former Episcopalian, would be writing a review in praise of a book with the title '101 Reasons to be an Episcopalian'. However, my reasons for not being part of this institution do not lessen my general zeal and admiration for the greater presence of Anglicanism in the world, and thus if one extends this title a bit, I can also join in as part of this community, however tenuously.
Louie Crew is someone I have met, have heard preach, and with whom I have had disagreements, but in terms of general integrity, his approach to his church and faith has been consistent, passionate, laced with good humour and insight. Crew draws on scripture, reason and tradition in this listing of reasons, and while some are drawn a bit more broadly than the reality would warrant, they all tap into some of the key strengths of the Anglican community generally, and the Episcopal church as an institution specifically.
The Anglican tradition in America has a rich history, far more varied than most in-the-pew people realise, and given the mobility of denominational identification in these times, a good percentage of the church (both congregation members and clergy) originally are from outside this church. Crew's book can help fill in some of the gaps of knowledge that even life-long Anglicans might have, and does so in an accessible and inviting way.

The World of Late Antiquity
The World of Late Antiquity
by Peter Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 22.75
27 used & new from CDN$ 16.39

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction, March 8 2006
The world of Late Antiquity is an historical period often overlooked. The more prominent periods such as the Greek Empire, Roman Empire, Early Christendom, Rise of Islam, East/West Split, etc. take the majority of space in historical texts; often the world of Late Antiquity is an epilogue or a prologue to anothe period.
Peter Brown, renowned for his authoritative biography on Augustine of Hippo, has produced a good introductory text to the period between the beginnings of the downfall of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of medieval times in western Europe. This period does not have strict boundaries -- there were no crucial or pivotal events defining the beginning or the end of the period, which is perhaps why it is often overlooked.
The text is divided into two primary sections -- the Late Roman Revolution, and Divergent Legacies. In the Late Roman Revolution, Brown explores the aspects of culture and religion that change slowly but ultimately dramatically from classical Roman to Christian-medieval. As Christianity rises and the power from the centre fades, including the power of the intelligensia, the post-Roman world takes on a new character.
In Divergent Legacies, Brown first looks at the development of the West after the fall of Rome. The barbarian invasions are recast, the assimilation of the Senate into the aristocratic and higher clerical ranks of the ruling Church shown to be a way in which the Roman hierarchy in fact survived the collapse of Rome, and the fragmentation of the empire ensured the dominance of Latin for the next many centuries.
This was a very different character from the survival of the Late Antique world in the East. Here the walls of Byzantium were never breached, despite the fact that most of the empire was lost not once but multiple times. The final chapter in Late Antiquity in the East was the first chapter in Muslim history, with the rise of the Muslim-dominated empires, which at first had cordial and profitable relationships with the West.
This book is part of a series, the Library of World Civilisation, edited by Geoffrey Barraclough of Brandeis University. Each volume is approximately 200 pages, richly illustrated (this particular text has 130 illustrations in these 200 pages), and accessible in writing style.

World of Late Antiquity
World of Late Antiquity
by Brown Peter
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction, March 8 2006
The world of Late Antiquity is an historical period often overlooked. The more prominent periods such as the Greek Empire, Roman Empire, Early Christendom, Rise of Islam, East/West Split, etc. take the majority of space in historical texts; often the world of Late Antiquity is an epilogue or a prologue to anothe period.
Peter Brown, renowned for his authoritative biography on Augustine of Hippo, has produced a good introductory text to the period between the beginnings of the downfall of the Roman Empire and the beginnings of medieval times in western Europe. This period does not have strict boundaries -- there were no crucial or pivotal events defining the beginning or the end of the period, which is perhaps why it is often overlooked.
The text is divided into two primary sections -- the Late Roman Revolution, and Divergent Legacies. In the Late Roman Revolution, Brown explores the aspects of culture and religion that change slowly but ultimately dramatically from classical Roman to Christian-medieval. As Christianity rises and the power from the centre fades, including the power of the intelligensia, the post-Roman world takes on a new character.
In Divergent Legacies, Brown first looks at the development of the West after the fall of Rome. The barbarian invasions are recast, the assimilation of the Senate into the aristocratic and higher clerical ranks of the ruling Church shown to be a way in which the Roman hierarchy in fact survived the collapse of Rome, and the fragmentation of the empire ensured the dominance of Latin for the next many centuries.
This was a very different character from the survival of the Late Antique world in the East. Here the walls of Byzantium were never breached, despite the fact that most of the empire was lost not once but multiple times. The final chapter in Late Antiquity in the East was the first chapter in Muslim history, with the rise of the Muslim-dominated empires, which at first had cordial and profitable relationships with the West.
This book is part of a series, the Library of World Civilisation, edited by Geoffrey Barraclough of Brandeis University. Each volume is approximately 200 pages, richly illustrated (this particular text has 130 illustrations in these 200 pages), and accessible in writing style.

The Story Of Christian Music
The Story Of Christian Music
by Andrew Wilson-Dickson
Edition: Paperback
13 used & new from CDN$ 17.83

5.0 out of 5 stars I too will praise him with a new song, March 8 2006
The author, Andrew Wilson-Dickson, teaches music and drama in Cardiff, having taken a doctorate in music composition from York University. Thoroughly grounded in the British musical context and traditions, Wilson-Dickson nonetheless presents a broad-ranging and fairly balanced few of the long history of Christian music. For most Christians through the centuries, the idea of worship without music (and, indeed, without particular kinds of music) might have been considered greater heresy than many of the theological controversies that fill the standard history texts. Even today, when a new minister goes into a church, the congregation is as likely to be upset at a shift in hymnody and music as in theological directions that diverge from their own.
This richly illustrated and designed book is divided into eight primary sections:
The Birth of Christian Music
Renaissance and Reformation
The Flowering of Christian Music
The Path Divides
Eastern Traditions
The African Genius
Music in North America
Music in Twentieth Century Europe
Not following geography or history timelines strictly, but rather allowing these to be broad organising principles, Wilson-Dickson explores the development of key musical types as well as the cross-pollination of musical styles and influences. There is a distinctly British bias that creeps in, not so much as a denigration of other cultures but rather as a highlight of the British traditions - one gets the sense from reading that this is where the author's heart is most at home. The author's biases are also apparent in his discussions, but he supports his conclusions fairly well, while not requiring the reader to agree. (For instance, many would agree with Wilson-Dickson that J.S. Bach was the greatest composer the Western world has ever produced, and Wilson-Dickson cites others such as Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Wagner - possible contenders for the title - as in agreement; however, should the reader not agree that J.S. Bach was the greatest, the chapter on Bach is not really diminished.)
The development of church music over time is not independent of the greater history of the Christian church, nor is it independent of the broader cultural and technological developments. These contexts and influences are discussed and explained as appropriate. The theological intention and importance behind the styles of music is explained without excessive rambling.
The graphic layout of the text is superb. Colour, photographs, line-art and copies of musical manuscripts abound to support and enhance the text. Side-bars and emphasis boxes explain key terms, points, or historical information. Given two thousand years of history and only 240 pages in which to explore it, obviously the author had to be selective not only in which topics to include, but how much to develop each one. Given the importance of North American Christianity in the world-wide Christian experience in the past few hundred years, perhaps a little more room could be devoted to this area of music. Similarly, Wilson-Dickson's brief conclusion and discussion of good music vs. bad music could benefit from a little more development.
However, for the seminary student, the religious studies and history student, or even the average choir member or singer in a congregation, this is an excellent overview of the history and development of Christian music. One might wish for a CD or two to be included with musical samples; perhaps for a later edition?

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