This Too Shall Pass
Both Publishers Weekly and Christian Bookseller agree that 1978 will be “a bumper year” for evangelical literature. Particularly popular is the first-person confession of a washed-up or caught-up-with celebrity who has found God. Rinsed in the Blood of the Lamb, the redeemed celebrity is presented with what looks to be a real book, bearing a personalized dust jacket—that is, he will be credited with having written a memoir composed by someone else. Sinwise, plagiarism is less than deadly; it is also big business. Celebrity-sinner books are sold by the millions through hundreds of bookstores and dozens of book clubs that cater for fundamentalist Christians. Last year over $600 million worth of “Christian books” were sold in the United States.
If the redeemed and revived celebrity can so much as tote a tune (Pat Boone, Anita Bryant), there are countless stops not only along but above and below the Bible Belt where large audiences will pay to observe a reborn celebrity. For those who cannot sing songs, a patter of penitence will do. Ci-devant revolutionary, rapist, and couturier Eldridge Cleaver’s repentance number is a heart-warming crowd-pleaser wherever chiggers burrow and Jesus saves.
Watergate criminals are also in demand. When the inspiring Charles Colson (author of Born Again) and the inspired Jeb S. Magruder (author of An American Life) confess to all sorts of small sins and crimes not unlike those that Shakespeare’s Cardinal Wolsey sang of in his final aria, the audience is able to enjoy if not pity and awe a certain amount of catharsis.
Christian Bookseller reports on some new good books: “Master’s Press announced a first print run of 300,000 copies of its spring release, Looking Good, the biography of Freddie Prinze by Mary Pruetzel, the late comedian’s mother…. Mrs. Pruetzel’s purpose in writing Freddie’s biography is to spare other young hopefuls the tragic fate which befell her son.” Celebrity, sex, drugs, suicide—as told by a Mother! Not only will Master’s Press be in the chips this year but any young and hopeful Puerto Rican Magyar who wants to be a comic will know what to look out for en route to President Carter’s next Inaugural Eve Gala.
Also scheduled for 1978 is Christ and the Media by Malcolm Muggeridge. According to Christian Bookseller this “English radio and television personality who became a Christian late in life, is pessimistic about the present and future influence of television on human morality. He observes that television station owners, producers, writers and performers—like the films—operate under no established code of moral values. They are free to create their own morality as they go along.” Plainly, this is a bad thing. Plainly, an established code would be a good thing and Harold M. Voth, MD, might be just the man to come up with one.
Dr. Voth’s latest book is The Castrated Family, a “critical assessment of the women’s movement, gay liberation, unisex, open marriage and role blurring…phenomena [that] are destroying the American family.” Ann Landers thinks that “Dr. Voth has…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Get unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 an issue!
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 an issue. Choose a Print, Digital, or All Access subscription.