What grabbed me about Stringfellow? A couple things.
First, I sympathize with Stringfellow's biography. Stringfellow was a lawyer who wrote about theology. I'm a psychologist who writes about theology. We're both lay theologians. Outsiders to the profession.
But more importantly, what struck me about Stringfellow was how all this theology focuses on the predicament of death. Death is Stringfellow's great subject. It pervades all of this books and thinking.
This is important to me because death is the great subject of my own spiritual life and struggle. Ever since college death has been the topic I've wrestled with more than any other. And few if any of the theologians I'd read to that point had this same particular and intense focus. Then I found Stringfellow. Before reading Stringfellow I'd yet to find a theologian who saw the world the way I saw the world. I think a lot of us are looking for something like this. A theological soul mate. Stringfellow has become that for me.
Relatedly, Stringfellow has become the bridge that has allowed me to connect psychology with theology. As many of you know, my work has been greatly influenced by the thought of Ernest Becker. For years I struggled with how to connect Becker with Christian belief and practice. Stringfellow, because of his focus on death, helped me break through. I sit Becker and Stringfellow side by side and I have my bridge.
Given how important Stringfellow is to me I recently set myself the goal to read through all of his books in chronological order. And with a twist.
The twist--and if you are lover of books you'll get this--is to read all of Stringfellow's books in their first editions. I wanted to read Stringfellow's books as they came out of the crate when he first saw them. I can't explain this in any way other than wanting to make a connection with Stringfellow through space and time.
And so I set about looking for and buying first edition copies of all of Stringfellow's books. First printing and first edition if I could find it. And in this I was very successful. I now have first edition copies of all of Stringfellow's books and all but one are first printings.
More, during the search I found two copies that were autographed by Stringfellow. The prize of the bunch is a first edition, first printing, autographed copy of My People is the Enemy, Stringfellow's reflections on his years living in Harlem working as a lawyer.
(This all might sound really indulgent, expense-wise. But no one--other than nerds like me--cares that much about old Stringfellow books, even if they are first editions. Most of these books I got for $3-$5 each. The autographed ones were only about $20.)
A part of the fun in working with books from the '60s and '70s is getting a look at the dust jackets. Good Heavens, are some of these funky. I'm looking forward to sharing these with you.
So let me get to it.
I hate making big declarations on the blog about a series I'm going to do. Because sometimes I get bored and just stop and not finish. (I got through, what, one chapter of Walden?) So be warned, that might happen again. But I've read enough of these books already to believe that this series has a chance of being completed. And with that let me introduce you to The William Stringfellow Project.
The William Stringfellow Project is me reading through and blogging about Stringfellow's books in chronological order. More, I'll be reading the first editions and will share anything interesting from those editions. Things like pictures of the dust jacket, interesting endorsements on the back of the book, and curious things from the inside flaps.
Here is the reading list:
- Public and Private Faith (1962, Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
- Instead of Death (1962, Seabury Press).
- My People Is the Enemy (1964, Holt, Rinehart and Winston)
- Free in Obedience (1964, Seabury Press)
- Dissenter in a Great Society (1966, Holt, Rinehart and Winston)
- Count It All Joy (1967, Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
- Imposters of God: Inquiries into Favorite Idols (1969, Witness Books)
- A Second Birthday (1970, Doubleday)
- Suspect Tenderness: The Ethics of the Berrigan Witness (1971, Rinehart and Winston)
- An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (1973, Word)
- Instead of Death, Second Edition (1976, Seabury Press)
- Conscience and Obedience (1977, Word)
- A Simplicity of Faith: My Experience in Mourning (1982, Abingdon)
- The Politics of Spirituality (1984, Westminster Press)
So that's the plan. I have no calender in mind, so these posts will appear irregularly. I also don't have a plan for what a particular post will look like. The idea is to do a sort of book review for each title.
So look forward to the William Stringfellow Project. Here are all the first editions of his books:
|The First Editions of William Stringfellow|