The editorial lottery is, like any lottery, hard to predict. Just when I get comfortable with a particular mix and pace of academic and popular manuscripts coming across my desk, along comes a sudden change to shake things up.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been doing a great deal of developmental editing on a number of manuscripts oriented towards popular audiences. This is unusual for me, as I typically work with authors who have already polished their manuscripts carefully before delivering them to me, having received all the feedback they need from doctoral advisors or informal peer groups. Yet in three recent instances, authors have sought feedback on early drafts of their manuscripts, and in each case I’m delighted to say there’s a interesting book to look forward to.
The first, tentatively titled Borderline: Reflections on War, Sex, and Church, is a potent mix of memoir, cultural criticism, and theological reflection by Stan Goff, a special-forces-soldier-turned-anti-war-activist-turned-Roman-Catholic. Stan is particularly interested in, and qualified to write about, the fascinating if deeply disturbing and perverse ways that war intersects with sexuality, peculiar and destructive notions of masculinity especially. He’s also aware of the ways the war-masculinity nexus has infected Christian discourse, and I’m very much looking forward to the conversations his book will generate within and without the Christian community.
A second book, A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps by Lisa Deam, invites the reader on a journey into the strange and wonderful world of the medieval theological imagination as it was on display in the making of maps, in particular. Deam has a PhD in medieval art history from The University of Chicago, and she’s an expert on the Hereford Map, made in England ca. 1300. The writing is engaging and the journey fascinating, as Deam seeks to illumine the theological profundity of what look to our modern eyes like fanciful and highly inaccurate maps from a more ignorant time. Deam combines her scholarly training with a pastoral sensibility to achieve the unlikely—making weird medieval maps life-giving in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
The third book has a bit of a backstory. Many months ago, I stumbled across a blog post by Rod Dreher, in which he reproduced with his reader’s permission a letter pushing back against something Dreher had said in an earlier post. Dreher found the letter quite powerful, as did I. I contacted him to see if he’d be willing to put me into contact with the author, he did, and the third book is what has emerged out of that connection. It’s by Charles H. Featherstone and is titled My Love Is All That Matters: A Wilderness Journey of Faith and Hope. Featherstone writes of his growing up as an Army brat in an abusive household, of idyllic visits on the extended family farm in Eastern Washington, of becoming a Muslim, being drawn in by radicalizing elements of the communities of Muslims he encountered in San Francisco and Ohio, of traveling abroad to Vienna and Dubai, and eventually of his conversion to Christianity and his entry into the ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Featherstone’s narrative is not straightforwardly linear, and he intersperses theological reflections throughout in a way that adds depth to the extraordinary story that lies in the details of his life.