Hitler’s Soldiers


Hitler’s Soldiers
The German Army in the Third Reich
By Ben H. Shepherd
Yale University Press – £25.00

The more enemies, the more honour!

General von Bomberg’s ridiculous and rather chilling riposte to worries that Germany’s rapid rearmament would antagonise foreign nations – Chapter Two, ‘The Road To War, 1936-39

The army of the Wehrmacht is the sword of the new German worldview.

(Erwin Rommel., December 1938 – Introduction).

Just when you thought you knew pretty much all there was to know, or at least believed you had a reasonable grasp on the German armed forces during the World War II, another superlative book comes along to re-awaken what may have inadvertently evolved into a reckoning of staid assumption.

For one thing, in the Preface of Hitler’s Soldiers – The German Army in the Third Reich by Ben H. Shepherd – whose dark and altogether uncompromising 2012 book, Terror in the Balkans I have also reviewed – immediately tackles the otherwise misinformed thinking that the then German army was known as the Wehrmacht: ”Whilst many books employ the term ‘Wehrmacht’ to denote the German army, this is actually incorrect. ‘Wehrmacht’ directly translates as Armed forces, and technically speaking the Wehrmacht comprised not just the army, but also the air force (Luftwaffe), navy (Kriegsmarine), and from 1944, the Waffen-SS.”

Thus, by the time one has reached the book’s Introduction, one has already been alerted to what is clearly a very important error; an elongated error at that, which, surprisingly, ought to have been clarified years ago.

Exceedingly well researched, and perhaps investigated well beyond the call of literary duty, Shepherd clearly knows the political and socially sinister side of modern, German history: ”Big business bought into the Nazi economic programme, albeit with some reservations, partly because rearmament promised enormous profits and business opportunities, partly because the Nazis had obligingly destroyed the trade unions, and partly because the Nazis were able to manipulate big business by divide and rule, particularly coopting those sections of commerce and industry that had most to gain from rearmament (‘The Army in the New Reich’).

As inconceivably complex as the Second World War was, Shepherd has herein tackled each and every phase with a more than cool-headed, linear and analytical dexterity. A quality, which in and of itself alone, underlines the clarity with which Hitler’s Soldiers has been so scholarly devised. What’s more, said quality also reinforces a sense of subliminal trust within that of the reader, wherein the actual reading itself, becomes almost effortless.

To be sure, one can almost home in on any of this book’s twenty-four chapters, with the acute and assured knowledge that what one is reading, is based upon historical fact. Although (perhaps) more importantly, especially so far as the German army is concerned, the facts have themselves been aligned with a critical synthesis of significantly new strategic and social revelation.

For instance, in the fifth chapter, ‘The Greatest Victory, 1940,’ Shepherd sheds relative, new light upon the fact that as a tactician (or madman, both are as equally applicable), Hitler was already getting it horribly wrong as early as Dunkirk: ”[…] the drive on Dunkirk had exposed Hitler’s less than steady nerve, a trait that, paradoxically, would reveal itself again even as the dictator grew ever more convinced of his military genius. It was the campaign’s triumphant conclusion that would dangerously encourage this new sense of infallibility. The drive on Dunkirk also exposed another of Hitler’s traits, one that would, again, resurface ever more frequently and detrimentally – his penchant for micromanaging operations down to the minutest detail.”

To assert as much so early on in the Battle for France, is, to my mind at least, a revelation which isn’t to be taken at all lightly. There again, with the euphoria over the eventual defeat of the country (what with the campaign having started on May 10th, Paris having declared itself an open city on June 13th and the wholesale surrender of France on June 22nd), Blitzkrieg gave rise and a whole meaning to the unfortunate word, swift.

Indeed, Blitzkrieg was borne out of a diktat or approach, initially set in place during Germany’s rearmament of the thirties; a time when the Wehrmacht was, as Rommel declared, evolving into ”the sword of the new German worldview” by way of a whole new militaristic ideology. An ideology which the author initially touches on in the book’s Introduction: ”To ensure that both its frontline officers and more senior commanders would be equal to the task of conducting offensive mobile warfare, Reichswehr doctrine and training promoted Auftragstaktik, or ‘mission tactics,’ a concept that had suffused Prusso-German military thinking since the nineteenth century […] a complex approach, with several interdependent elements, to the increasingly unpredictable conditions of the battlefield.”

Following the Battle for France, Shepherd once again refers to Auftragstaktik: ”[…] it was the Germans’ own strengths that enabled them to triumph so spectacularly. Among other things, they profited from an imaginative and daring operational plan. But if one single, overall reason for the German army’s triumph in the west can be pinpointed, it is that its doctrinal approach to tactics and operations far outclassed that of its opponents. At all levels, it possessed qualities of daring and adaptability, and a capacity to react to the rapidly changing battlefield situation – all hallmarks of Auftragstaktik […]. On the other hand, all these qualities and technologies were employed with the aim of achieving what was, for the German military, a tried-and-tested operational goal: breaking through, encircling and defeating the enemy by concentrating overwhelming power against his weakest spot. As one French general commented after the campaign, the French had used their three thousand tanks in a thousand pack of three, whereas the Germans had used their three thousand tanks in three packs of a thousand.”

It is just such fresh and incisive analyses, which accounts for Hitler’s Soldiers being such an invigorating, if not majestic read on a subject that, although written upon on numerous occasions over the course of the last seventy years, has never been so thoroughly dissected until now.

As such, these 536 pages (excluding Preface, Introduction, Acknowledgements, Appendices, Table of Acronyms, Glossary of German Phrases, Table of Equivalent Ranks, Figures, Maps, Notes, Bibliography, Index and Notes on Illustrations), which are broken into five distinct sections, make for an utterly magnificent, if not fulfilling read.

Quite possibly the finest book on the German Army (during World War II) I’ve ever read.

David Marx

30-Second Economics


30-Second Economics
The 50 most thought-provoking economic theories, each explained
in half a minute
Edited by Donald Marron
Icon Books – £14.99

In the Introduction of this rather readable, entertaining book on the theory of economics (an entertaining book on economics – who’d have thought it?), editor Donald Marron writes: ”Economists […] study how fundamental social forces explain everything from the price of bread to the wealth disparity between the United States and Zimbabwe.”

I too could explain ”the wealth disparity between the United States and Zimbabwe,” although it would be utterly different to that of where Mr. Marron is coming from.

Words to the effect that there is still some validity of checks and balances (perhaps) taking place throughout the U.S., for checks and oodles of balances are one of the fundamental foundations upon which the country was built. Yet so long as that vile/puerile excuse of a human being, Robert Mugabe continues to hold office in Zimbabwe, a huge disparity of morality will continue to reign supreme. Let lone a huge disparity of wealth.

As such, Marron readily contests that ”economics is thus still a work in progress; and it may end up resembling biology more than it does physics. But economics isn’t just science. Many economists, myself included, believe that our insights into how the world works have implications for how the world should work in general. As a result, the scientific theories of economics blur into political theories of the good society.”

I have to confess to liking the use of the word ‘blur’ in the final sentence, as it subliminally injects a sense so haziness into the proceedings. A haziness which is open to both interpretation and contradiction.

That said: ”Many of the top fifty theories in economics can indeed be traced to economists who are defunct, at least in the biological sense (including Keynes himself). But the theories themselves remain vibrant. As Keynes warns, however, important theories are not always right. So mixed among the most important theories you will find a few that are almost certainly wrong, despite their influence.”

In a succinct and altogether inviting manner, these 154 pages (not including Resources, Index and Acknowledgements) traverse all there is to know about economics in bite-size chunks; which, to all intents and purposes, can surely, only be a good thing?

As well as meeting some of the founding fathers of modern economics like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Alfred Marshall and Milton Friedman; the handsomely put together 30-Second Economics – The 50 most thought provoking economic theories, each explained in half a minute also traverses the various schools of economic thought (such as Keynesian and the Austrian School), along with varying Economic Systems and Cycles, Global Trade, Neoclassical Synthesis and naturally, the Expected Utility Theory – which herein, falls under the heading of Choice(!).

In fact, everything from Monetarism to Marxism to Mercantilism is touched upon in this colourful and overtly compact book. An Icon publication that will undoubtedly serve as the perfect introduction or ultimate crash course in economic theory.

David Marx

Paul McCartney – The Biography


Paul McCartney – The Biography
By Philip Norman
Weidenfeld & Nicolson – £25.00

Having attended the premiere of The Beatles’ Eight Days A Week last Thursday, I couldn’t help but come away with a feeling of re-invigorated, inspired awe.

First off, there’s the relentless number of terrific songs, closely followed by the contagious sense of the fun and all encompassing, teenage induced mayhem. Then there’s the unavoidable sense of energy with which the four members of The Beatles performed – who, need we remind ourselves, were the same age as the all but manufactured, One Direction, during Beatlemania.

Indeed, there really is so much one could continue to write about Ron Howard’s documentation of the band’s period of live performance(s); most notably, the unquestionable abundance of high-octane, astonishing material.

But then there are the four individual Beatles themselves, each one of whom, to varying degrees admittedly, was responsible for making the Fab Four who and what they essentially were: the greatest band in the history of popular music. Period.

What also came across loud and exceedingly clear throughout the film, was the devastating song-writing prowess of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They were the ones who were fundamentally responsible for separating The Beatles from the nine-hundred-thousand-million other (mighty average) bands of the day; which is just one of many, many reasons why Paul McCartney – The Biography, is as idiosyncratically important as it is.

Important for a number of very qualified and varied reasons, one of the most pertinent of which is how the book substantiates the fact that The Beatles were not an overnight success. This is something Sir Paul McCartney made very clear before Thursday’s screening of Eight Days A Week, when interviewed by fellow Liverpudlian, John Bishop.

To be sure, The Beatles honed their craft by having played every superfluous, stinking dive and toilet in Liverpool and Hamburg; before their eventual manager, Brain Epstein, even set eyes on them. A fact which partially accounts for their brilliance, but most definitely accounts for most of today’s artists being pointless and puerile, lacklustre and in truth, fucking awful in comparison.

Then of course, there’s the book’s actual writing itself.

With this being the first actual biography written with McCartney’s approval, and with access to family members and friends closest to him, it ought hardly be surprising that it is as good and quintessentially un-put-downable as it is. There again, it was written by Philip Norman, who, along with having written Fiction and a number of Plays and Musicals, previous books include Shout! The True Story of The Beatles, The Stones, Elton, Days in the Life: John Lennon Remembered, The Age of Parody, Buddy: the Biography, John Lennon: The Life and Mick Jagger.

So, a fine pedigree of a writer, but perhaps of more substantiation, one to be clearly be trusted.

Might it be said that at 816 pages – excluding Acknowledgements, Picture Credits and Index – trust and truth will endeavour to go a very long way; especially given all four Beatles’ penchant for having never held back and for having always told it as it truly was.

So as one can probably imagine, the five parts of this veritable tomb of information (‘Stairway to Paradise,’ ‘The Barnum & Bailey Beatle,’ ‘Home, Family, Love,’ ‘Carrying That Wait’ and ‘Back in the World’), covers nigh every aspect and period of McCartney’s rich and varied life. This also includes the good, the bad and the ugly. The latter of which is traversed amid chapter 53, ‘Even by British tabloid standards, the nastiness has been extraordinary’ – which is an overview of the degree to which the British tabloids had sunk whilst covering McCartney’s divorce from the vile Heather Mills.

But for me, and, I suspect many others, it’s the earlier sections of the book that covers and somewhat analyses the heady days of The Beatles, that invariably makes for the most compelling reading.

For instance, in chapter twelve (‘Did you know he sleeps with his eyes open?’), Norman writes: ”[…] Their innovative presentation, not as lead vocalist and sidemen but four (almost) equals, gave them a wholly unforeseen extra power. On top of their collective charm, each had a distinct character appealing to different sections of their audience: there was the ‘clever’ one, the ‘cute’ one, the ‘quiet’ one and what film producer Walter Shenson called ‘the adorable runt of the litter.’

Together they were more articulate, charming and intelligent – above all funnier – than any pop artistes before, but this alone doesn’t explain the British media’s fixation on them during that rainy summer of 1963. It was a season of unremitting hard news, including the Profumo scandal, the biggest train robbery in history, the thwarting of Britain’s attempt to join the European Economic Community, the resignation of Prime minister Harold Macmillan and the resulting turmoil within the Tory government. Fleet Street initially turned to ‘Beatlemania’ (a term coined by The Daily Mirror) for a bit of light relief, thereby discovering to its surprise that pop-obsessed teenagers read newspapers, too. From then on, there was no surer way to shift copies.

Today, the ‘-mania’ tag is attached to any pop star, or other sort of star, who draws an ardent crowd: ‘Justin Bieber-mania,’ Leonardo DiCaprio-mania,’ One Direction-mania,’ Prince Harry-mania,’ etc., etc. But in the sleepy, orderly Britain of the mid-twentieth century, Beatlemania truly did seem to verge on the psychotic. And it wasn’t just the Mach-speed rise of the band’s records in the charts, the multitudes who queued for their shows, the incessant shrieks that drowned out every song they played, the volleys of jelly babies that were flung at the stage or the rows of seats left drenched in female urine.”

A sanctified, pop-induced image of a bygone era, does the above most accurately depict – just like that of Ron Howard’s just released docu-epic, Eight Days A Week. But where Philip Norman’s Paul McCartney – The Biography differs, apart from the fact that it’s a book, is its overall appreciation and analysis of the Beatles, followed by a more than considered continuation of McCartney’s life since.

Other than being a read that is cool and commendable, analytical and ambitious, it’s simply breath-taking on scope.

Fantabulous. Yeah Yeah Yeah.

David Marx

The Letters of T. S. Eliot.,


The Letters of T. S. Eliot.,
Volume I: 1898 – 1922 (Revised Edition)
Edited by Valerie Eliot and Hugh Haughton
Faber and Faber – £35.00

As the English language becomes ever increasingly ingrained within the rancid fibre of acute simplistic-speak; signed, sealed, delivered and ultimately designed for a dumbed-down society of nothing other than moronic moguls – should it be at all surprising that the art of letter writing, essentially died decades ago?

Just so long as (hordes of) white males continue to replicate the switch-blade nuance of many a Camberwell gangsta, and their female equivalents, the saccharine, cloying annoyance of those (s)advertising carpets and/or motor-car-insurance as if on a penultimate edition of Strictly, then we may as well kiss the English language goodbye.

Indeed, the rich and varied language of the likes of William Shakespeare, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Beckett and Richard Burton et al, is moving ever further aside to make way for The Eastenders- Sun-Speak of folly induced, cretinous, turgid, wank, innit?

All the more reason to remind ourselves of how very potent and powerful, inspiring and influential (not to mention wondrous and majestic), language actually can be. And this revised edition of The Letters of T. S. Eliot., Volume I: 1898 – 1922, is as good a place to start as anywhere.

Home in on almost any of these 817 pages (excluding List of Illustrations, Acknowledgements, Introduction, Preface to the Revised Edition, Biographical Commentary, 1888-1922, Abbreviations & Sources, Editorial Notes, Glossary of Names, Index of Correspondents & Recipients along with a General Index), and one will be immediately reminded of what I write.

I would hasten to add that it might help if one is actually interested in the subject matter and the rather magnificent work(s) of T. S. Eliot; but to all intents and linguistic purposes, much of the language herein is of a f-a-r higher standard than that which would nowadays, be hurriedly dashed off by text.

Furthermore, it is surely an indicative sign of the times, that there are so many letters. There again, we are talking of someone who made (some of) their living by way of being an outstanding writer. There again, Valerie Eliot, has since 1988, continued to gather material from libraries and private sources in Britain and America for use in subsequent volumes. Of the correspondence that has come to light, a good many letters date from before 1923, so a revised edition of Volume One has been prepared to take account of approximately two hundred new items.

It might thus be said, that the new letters fill important gaps in the record, notably enlarging our understanding of the genesis and eventual publication of The Waste Land. Valuable, too, are letters from the earlier and least documented part of Eliot’s life, additional correspondence with family members in America along with an ever widening circle of friends and contacts.

Assimilated together, they undoubtedly give a far more detailed picture of not only the poet’s engagements, friendships and daily movements in London during and after the First World War, but they also shed much light on that of his reading materials: ”I received last night by the post a package bearing a label which indicted that it came from the offices of The Dial. When opened, it was found to contain The House of Dust by Conrad Aiken, and nothing else. There was no enclosure or inscription to indicate why the volume was sent to me. It occurred to me that it might be intended for review; and if so, I fear it was a piece of naughtiness on your part at Conrad’s expense.”

Naturally, it might be said that it is with reference to quite possibly his greatest work, The Waste Land, that will invariably invoke and trigger the most enthusiasm among readers.

This, alongside his wanton debt to the equally brilliant poet, Ezra Pound, are mentioned throughout a number of letters in the final quarter of the book, with, as the letters flood by, ever increasingly clarity: ”My only regret (which may seem in the circumstances either ungracious or hypocritical) is that this award should come to me before it has been given to Pound. I feel that he deserves the recognition much more than I do, certainly ‘for his services to Letters’ and I feel that I ought to have been made to wait until after he had received this public testimony. In the manuscript of The Waste Land which I am sending you, you will see the evidence of his work, and I think that this manuscript is worth preserving in its present form solely for the reason that it is the only evidence of the difference which his criticism has made to this poem” (to John Quinn, September 21st 1922).

With exquisite letters written entirely in French by his friend, Jean Verdenal, there are also a number of doodlings and drawings by Eliot himself, that, along with two wonderful sections of black and white photographs; all in all account for The Letters of T. S. Eliot., Volume I: 1898 – 1922, being the masterful tomb of regal recollection that it is.

David Marx

Man With Bombe Alaska


Man With Bombe Alaska
By Kate Behrens
Two Rivers Press – £9.99

I came across Kate Behrens whilst studying the Future Learn course, Literature and Mental Health. She read out a poem called ‘Madonna Blue,’ segments of which at the time, I found laden with profound imagery that struck me as having evolved from something other.

Something beyond explanation, beyond painful:

Misfits on the tufts, stiff,
ant-bitten, we listen
as our battery-driven
Bach Violin Concertos
lift off. We have ptsd
undiagnosed, pencils,
paints, the up-rush when
Madonna blue accedes
Bach’s warping phrases.

That the poetess read it out loud, goes some way in reinforcing the thinking that poems read aloud, really do take on a whole different meaning; especially when they’re merely read off the page. Reason being, I have read and re-read the above lines, but am yet to be transported to the place I originally was – upon first hearing it.

‘Misfits on the tufts’ and ‘Bach’s warping phrases’ still home in, although the remaining seven lines remain a little stilted and disjointed – regardless of imagery.

Suffice to say, of the fifty-two poems throughout Man With Bombe Alaska, there are one or two that do endeavour to ever so quickly, encapsulate the hit and miss and hit and remain scenario of transient, poetic power.

I use the word transient, simply because, although there are lines of astonishing beauty:

on spines of orange lit snow (‘Relief)

where insolent skies gleam eyeball-white (‘We Tread Forwards’)

a birthplace of crippled pines (‘Christmas Ghost’)

I don’t remember every failure (‘Selective Memory’)

Asymmetrical lines
feed the heart salt truths (‘Some Things I Know Tonight’)

they remain nevertheless, one off, and somewhat isolated. Isolated within their own contextualised emphasis of pin-prick brilliance.

It’s a mighty shame most of Man With Bombe Alaska’s poems aren’t surrounded and substantiated with much, much more of the same.

David Marx

Ordinary Workers, Vichy and The Holocaust


Ordinary Workers, Vichy and The Holocaust –
French Railwaymen and the Second World War
By Ludivine Broch
Cambridge University Press – £64.99/$99.99

As Ludivine Broch writes in the Introduction of this idiosyncratically informative and most readable of books on a subject that still remains as equally taboo as it does tempestuous: ”This book tells the story of the cheminots during the German Occupation of France between 1940 and 1944 in eight chapters and one epilogue. It takes an overarching chronological approach, starting with a history of the cheminots pre-1939 and ending with an epilogue which explores the rise (and fall) of cheminot memory. The seven chapters in between are slightly more thematic, exploring topics of accommodation, resistance and deportation as well as everyday life, cheminot professionalism and class struggle.”

Indeed, the range of exploration within the chapters themselves, shed just as much light on Ordinary Workers, Vichy and The Holocaust – French Railwaymen and the Second World War as that of the actual occupation itself. And it does so in such a way that is analytical, gritty and respectfully real; for all to bear considered judgement to, whilst simultaneously anchored within the inexorable argument of who was a resister, and who was a collaborator.

For instance, in the book’s final chapter, ‘Liberation,’ Broch openly states: ”Most of those who underwent investigation were generally released after having given explanations for their dubious behaviour. What is striking is that any excuse, from a marriage breakdown to a prolonged illness, was accepted to justify cheminot collaboration. Considering that Oullins, near Lyon, was a communist and Resistance stronghold, such leniency is surprising. However, it is indicative of cheminots’ collective identity and their immediate concern with rebuilding the railway after a period of sabotages and bombings than with the politics of revenge.”

Some might view this somewhat differently, especially given the number of reprisals that were rampant throughout France, Paris especially, immediately after the country’s liberation: ”Other individuals, however, suffered far greater consequences for their more controversial actions under Vichy. Indeed, many people on France considered that true victory could only be obtained by purging France of its ‘corrupt’ individuals: ‘No Rations without Purges. No Victory without Purges.”’

There again, having read this book, it could be said that the cheminots were an entity unto themselves; which might not be surprising in the least given the relative underhandedness with which some might view the French government as having always pursued (the politically subliminal exploitation) of its railway workers.

Such is brazenly brought to bear in the book’s initial chapter, ‘Cheminots,’ where Broch openly admits: ”[…] when war broke out in 1870 […] the trains were vital for both the front line and the home front, and no one could be spared. Thus a law enforced in 1870 allowed all railwaymen to request exemption from military service, which Ministers unofficially encouraged the Companies to take advantage of. This new link to the nation, and this added patriotic responsibility, put the railway workers in an interesting position: they were now at the peak of their bargaining power. Indeed, the 1870-1 war was the first ‘modern’ war where all men and material were moved by rail. The role of railway workers had thus become paramount to military service.”

As a lecturer in History at the University of Westminster and co-editor of France in an Era of Global Wars, 1914-1945: Occupation, Politics, Empire and Entanglements, it ought hardly come as a surprise that Ludivine Broch has herein compiled 241 pages (excluding Abbreviations, Maps, Glossary of railway professions, Bibliography and Index) that are as a thorough an investigation on the subject of Ordinary Workers, Vichy and The Holocaust – French Railwaymen and the Second World War as we are currently likely to get.

David Marx

A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies


A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies
By Edward T. Oakes
Eerdmans Publishing Company – £18.99/$28.00

As Maurice Blondel (1861 – 1949) once said: Every doctrine which does not reach the one thing necessary, every separated philosophy, will remain deceived by false appearances. It will be a doctrine, it will not be a philosophy.

How exceedingly true the above words ring – in as much that there are times when the all too obvious does indeed need to be clarified.

That in this instance, it has been brought to bear by the French philosopher Blondel, whose most influential work was L’Action – (aimed at establishing the correct relationship between autonomous philosophical reasoning and Christianity) really should come as no surprise. Likewise, the degree to which this altogether marvellous book by Edward T. Oakes, S.J., is simultaneously provocative and enlightening.

To say there are numerous instances throughout A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies, to which some form of provocation readily applies – the most very excellent of inspired titles itself – would be one of the utmost of understatements. In the chapter, ‘Sin and Justification for instance,’ Oakes quotes N.T. Wright by supposing that ”God’s purposes go far beyond individual salvation” when he writes: ”God is rescuing us from the shipwreck of the world, not so that we can sit back and put our feet up in his company, but so that we can be part of his plan to remake the world.”

I would hasten to add that this is something I wholeheartedly agree with; although said particular ”shipwreck of the world,” does appear just a little too submerged to be truly rescued. Alas, if even if it were, could the world itself actually be redeemed?

Oakes continues: ”We are in orbit around God and his purposes, not the other way around. If the Reformation tradition had treated the Gospels as equally important to the Epistles, this mistake might never have happened. But it has, and we must deal with it.”

Yes we must.
Herein perhaps, lies one of the most fundamental problems facing humanity today.

We do not work in conjunction with any of the above, because we have been side-tracked by far, far too much deviation. Or, dare I say it, temptation, which too is addressed by way of Oakes delving into the doctrinal thinking of Karl Barth: ”Temptation mercilessly reveals the yawning chasm between Is and Ought, between what is and what should be. We see the depths of this fissure from an insight into God’s justice and judgement […]. Every single feature of human life is lost before God if grace is lacking – a grace that the sinner cannot count on and to which he has no right whatever. No one who has really found himself trapped in the coils of temptation has ever been able to save one of his works from the fire of divine judgement. No one in such a situation would ever even dream of laying claim to any reward.”

With such a title heading as the aforementioned ‘Sin and Justification,’ not to mention ‘Evolution and Original Sin,’ is it any wonder I use the word provocative to describe this occasionally inflammatory, yet ultimately dense book of readings and teachings?

Throughout the six chapters of this book, (plus a further Introduction and Glossary of Terms), Oakes examines various issues relating to grace and points them back to that central question, illuminating and explaining what is really at stake in these debates. Maintaining that controversies clarify issues, especially those as convoluted as that of nature and grace, Oakes works through six central debates on the topic, including sin and justification, free will and evolution, along with original sin.”

And as a matter of profound interest, why is it always original sin? Why not pre-ordained sin? Calculated sin. Sin passed down through many a misguided generation?

Of the author, Aaron Riches (Ecce Homo: On the Divine Unity of Christ) writes: ”Edward Oakes will be remembered as one of the finest American Catholic theologians of his generation. With A Theology of Grace in Six Controversies, he has given the church and contemporary theology a final offering – a work as daring as it is faithful, as provocative as it is irenic, as creative as it is traditional. This book promises to change the terms of the question concerning the relation of nature and grace. A must-read for anyone interested in contemporary theology.”

That Oakes pushes the theological boat out and doesn’t ultimately write from that of a particularly safe premise, does a lot to substantiate as much throughout this most complex and multifacted of books.

David Marx