Archives For Rodney Clapp


Rodney Clapp Reviews Rick Bass’s Novel

Who, in a world now so thoroughly constituted as a consumer culture, is not susceptible to the allures of fame? As Rick Bass’s new novel palpably demonstrates, certainly not Maxine Brown. Maxine was (and remains) the oldest of the three siblings that made up the Brown Family, a country music singing group successful in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The Browns pumped out a burst of hits that included “The Three Bells,” “I Take the Chance,” and “Money,” and for awhile kept pace with the brightly blazing production of a close friend of the family, one Elvis Presley.

Bass’ novelization of the Browns’ experiences is not a chronologically ordered, exhaustive retelling of their lives and career as a singing group. Instead, he gives us a series of set pieces that poignantly show the Browns (especially Maxine) in the ascent from poverty in the Arkansas woods to Nashville stardom, and then their abrupt retreat back into comparative obscurity. The book is also a fictional meditation on fame and its cruel vagaries.

Read the full review:

Rick Bass.
Hardback:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt  ,2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

The NY TIMES review of
AMERICAN GRACE:  How Religion Divides and Unites Us
by Robert Putnam and David Campbell.

At first glance, the authors of “American Grace” would seem to suffer from very bad timing. Between the completion of their manuscript and its publication, the dispute over the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan erupted, followed by the ­Koran-burning controversy, and somewhere along the way a New York cabdriver was stabbed, apparently for being a Muslim. All this gives a quaint air to their declaration, in the book’s first chapter, that “America peacefully combines a high degree of religious devotion with tremendous religious diversity.” And it seems to render moot one of their main goals: to illuminate the source of this inter­faith ­tolerance.

Actually, though, the story told in this book, by the social scientists Robert D. Putnam of Harvard and David E. Campbell of Notre Dame, is urgently relevant to the recent surge in interfaith tension.

True, America’s tradition of peaceful religious coexistence is largely about harmony among Christian denominations, and so doesn’t speak directly to the question of Islam’s place in America. But it’s also true that there was a time when many American Protestants viewed Roman Catholics no more charitably than a certain Pentecostal preacher in Florida views Muslims. In the 19th century, a Massachusetts convent was destroyed by anti-Catholic rioters, and civil unrest in Philadelphia — set off by rumors that Catholics wanted to rid the public schools of Bibles — led to some two dozen deaths and the destruction of two churches.

Read the full review:

How Religion Divides and Unites Us
By Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell.
Hardback: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]


Families at the Crossroads by Rodney Clapp has been essential for us as a church in thinking about how the role of our biological families fits with our calling to be the family of God together as the Church, particularly in light of Jesus’ difficult teachings about fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers.

I was excited to find that one can peruse most of this book on Google Books!

Families at the Crossroads:
Beyond Traditional And Modern Options
Rodney Clapp.
Paperback: IVP Books, 1993.
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“Exploring the Essence of a Place”

A Review of

Johnny Cash and

the Great American Contradiction:

Christianity and the Battle

for the Soul of a Nation,

by Rodney Clapp.

By Chris Smith.

Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction.
Rodney Clapp.
Paperback. WJK Books. 2008.
Buy now from: [ Doulos Christou Books $14 ] [ Amazon ]

Clapp - Johnny Cash

Rodney Clapp’s newest book Johnny Cash and the Great American Contradiction is a wonderful little book, but I must warn expectant readers that the book’s focus is on the latter part of its title, not the former. I picked up the book expecting a thorough examination of Cash’s music – like, for instance, Jonathan Gould’s recent Can’t Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain and America – so I was a bit disappointed to find that Cash’s life and works were merely used to illustrate the book’s larger themes of American cultural history. To be fair, Clapp does, in the introduction, do a good job of presenting Cash as a prime example of the sort of contradictions that he will explore throughout the remainder of the book. Unfortunately, however, after the brief introduction, Johnny Cash is relegated to the status of an occasional reference throughout the remainder of the book. Additionally, as a Gen X-er who has only re-discovered Cash in the last decade and who must admit the gaping holes in my knowledge of his work, I often wished that this book came with an accompanying cd, so that I could listen to the songs as they were discussed. It was only after I approached the book’s end that I realized that Clapp had provided a valuable appendix in which he compiles a list of many of the songs discussed and notes that he has set up an iMix list in iTunes that offers for download many of the songs listed in this appendix.

However, with these caveats out of the way, there was little else that I found disappointing about this book. Once I resigned myself to the fact that this was a book on American cultural history, and not music history, I was drawn into the story of our land that Clapp weaves here. Continue Reading…