Category Archives: The Spirit

“Tell It Slant”: The New Quaker Biography’s First Review Is Out!

The Western Friend is continuing evidence (tho it’s still news to some) that there is lively Quaker periodical publishing outside Philadelphia. When the editor learned about Tell It Slant, she didn’t hesitate: Friend Mitchell Santine Gould’s review, the first, was included in its current online newsletter edition.

Mitch is a distinguished independent historian with a theological bent. His special interest in the quasi-Quaker poet Walt Whitman has produced many impressive essays, including Walt Whitman: 10 Misconceptions, Least to Greatest, which is here,  and very much worth a look (but read this review first . . .)

Published: June 22, 2024, in The Western Friend:

Emma Lapsansky-Werner “Tells It Slant

in a Mammoth Biography of Publick Friend Chuck Fager

Tell it Slant: A prophetic life of adventure and writing on religion, war, and justice, love and laughter (Kimo Press, 2024)

More book details here.

Reviewed by Mitchell Santine Gould, Multnomah Monthly Meeting (6/19/2024):

Emma and Chuck at a 2017 history roundtable at Earlham School of Religion.

Emma Lapsansky-Werner offers us a sprawling biography of Quaker journalist, activist, and gadfly Chuck Fager, in Tell It Slant. I read the first half with growing appreciation for two essential aspects of Chuck’s life. The first is his truly impressive involvement with so many historic moments in politics, society, and religion. The second, which nicely humanizes this history, is a very frank, very modest account of his own life – warts as well as triumphs. It must be rare that a biography succeeds so admirably on both aspects.

Chuck’s long experience as a professional journalist and author gives perfect clarity to his parts of the overall narrative. However, he had so much to say, that in order to marshal some flow and organization to so many anecdotes, memories, and histories, he was lucky that Emma Lapsansky-Werner extended her invaluable editorial contributions into the role of co-author.

As she put it, “In crafting this narrative, I have echoed Chuck’s scaffolding, weaving my spin together with many of Chuck’s own words; biography is interwoven with autobiography.” Although Dr. Lapsansky-Werner is an academic — a professor of Quaker history — she delivered the kind of powerfully clear and simple journalistic prose that seamlessly matched Chuck’s own. I think given all the constraints, Lapsansky-Werner acquitted herself well.

We’re no longer in an age of book-reading — info-snacking is more like it — and one might set the book aside rather read the whole thing at once. But should you resume in the middle of the book, its humor, charm, interest, and insight will even more deeply impress you. Tell It Slant is inspiring and above all, highly relevant. In addition to his decades of involvement with Quaker faith, practice, and internal politics, Chuck really kept his finger on the pulse of American society and politics — precisely because of his investment in his faith, of course.

When the stories are this compelling, you want the book to be perfect. Viewing Friend Chuck as the modern-day equivalent of history’s Publick Friend, I wanted him to be the exponent for liberal Quaker faith as I understand it. I hoped to see a conscious allegiance to the key innovation of Quakerism: its Inner Light theology. Informal polling that I did years ago revealed that Friends today have reduced the doctrine of Inner Light to little more than a sentimental “that of God in everyone.”

But historically, the Inner Light was recognized as a secret, silent hotline to the Divine, quite specifically as a source of guidance in times of an ethical crisis. Crucially, it was seen as capable of over-riding the two ubiquitous avenues for all moral supervision: the Bible and the clergy. Chuck mentions the Inner Light only twice, exclusively in anecdotes about an old Quaker lady he once admired. In reality, the Light is the power behind the often-praised Quaker virtue known as “discernment.”

Mitchell Santine Gould

Having said all this, let me turn to the controversial proposition that Quakerism can be succinctly described as SPICE: simplicity, peaceableness, integrity, community, and equality. I could write a whole sequel review showing how Chuck hits quite robustly on all these cylinders. And that ultimately trivializes all my criticisms of his book. I believe every Quaker should read it, and non-Quakers will also be deeply inspired, as I have been, by it.

– Mitchell Santine Gould, Multnomah Monthly Meeting (6/19/2024)

Excerpt #4 – “Tell It Slant”: Author Emma Lapsansky-Werner Speaks

This excerpt is adapted from the new book, Tell It Slant, which charts Chuck Fager’s prophetic life of adventure & writing on religion, war, and justice, love and laughter.

Tell It Slant is available now, in paperback & Kindle versions. Details here.

By Emma Lapsansky-Werner

A short bio:  Emma Jones Lapsansky-Werner is emeritus Professor of History and emeritus Curator of the Quaker collection of Haverford College.

Chuck, Emma, and Douglas Gwyn – November 2019, at the launch of “Passing the Torch,” to which each contributed.

Emma lives near Philadelphia, PA, where she continues to teach, to do research and to publish, to consult with scholars, to work as a professional editor, and to host periodic writers’ workshops at Minerva’s by the Sea, her bed and breakfast near a lighthouse in coastal New Jersey. [Check out her website for another Writers Workshop upcoming November 2024:  MinervasBandB.com]
Continue reading Excerpt #4 – “Tell It Slant”: Author Emma Lapsansky-Werner Speaks

Coming June 19, “Tell It Slant”: The Author Speaks

A Preview

Emma Lapsansky-Werner, author, “Tell It Slant.”

“A life generously served on wry with plenty of mustard and no cheese, Emma Lapsansky-Werner’s compilation with Chuck Fager on his eighty years captures his unique synthesis of investigative journalism with religious concern, activist engagement with theological reflection, Quaker identity with wide-ranging, empathetic identifications.

Chuck’s story traces an engaging trajectory through our era, one to evoke both joy and sorrow from fellow travelers. His sixty-five-page bibliography itself is breathtaking, un grand oeuvre….”

— Douglas Gwyn, Quaker author, scholar, minister and songwriter

(Hear Doug’s music online for free here!)

Emma: By that time I had already decided that Chuck was among the most interesting Quakers alive in the twenty-first century. Investigative journalist, essayist, novelist, resolute pursuer-of-history, independent publisher, provocateur, activist, “whistle-blower”; teacher, father, F/friend, community-organizer, theological “seeker” (and self-defined finder)-and more. . . .

Watch this space for more, soon.

Tell It Slant is available now, in paperback and Kindle, here.

 

A Mourning Meditation On Miserable Melancholic Multi-Millionaire Mitt

 

This map tracks the rise and fall of empires and once-great nations; it hangs on Mitt Romney’s Senate office wall.

As a Mormon, Mitt Romney presumably does not believe in Karma. But maybe, more informally, he could nod glumly at  the non-theological adage that what goes around comes around.

Or, more biblically, does he acknowledge that the scripture says we reap what we sow?

I have a feeling he does, now.

Or he should, at least when his money manager passes on the invoices for the $150K+ monthly he’s paying for 24/7 security for his four houses and his family. 

And what about when he ponders the fact that all his five sons have already quit the GOP.

(The figures come from published excerpts from the forthcoming book, Romney: A Reckoning,, by reporter McKay Coppins.)

Continue reading A Mourning Meditation On Miserable Melancholic Multi-Millionaire Mitt

A Conservative’s Startling Wisdom on Abortion Post-Roe

[NOTE: David French is a conservative; I would differ with him on many issues, including Roe. But what he writes here about who is the most “pro-life” president (prepare for a surprise) and the crucial place of hope regarding abortion (and life generally!) is dead-on and relevant every day.]

The Importance of Hope in the Pro-Life Movement

New York Times —June 22, 2023

David French

Hope, not power, is the key for the pro-life movement

This newsletter is ultimately about hope. But I want to start with something else, a question that’s deeply relevant to the Republican Party and its 2024 presidential primary. The perceived answer to this question will likely swing the evangelical vote and decide the nomination. Continue reading A Conservative’s Startling Wisdom on Abortion Post-Roe