I have long been a fan of autobiographies of intellectuals and historians. After reading Dwight Gardner’s review of Garry Wills’s memoir Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer, I want to go out and get a copy.
For those who don’t know Wills, he is a prolific author of books related to religion and history. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1993 for his book Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America, and he is a devout Catholic, although lately he has been rather critical of his church.
Here is a snippet of Gardner’s review:
…Other narrative detours are pure labors of love. Mr. Wills’s chapter on his family’s years in Baltimore (he and his wife have three children) includes a long and ardent disquisition on the glories of Johnny Unitas’s passing with the Baltimore Colts, and Raymond Berry’s receiving. Mr. Wills approvingly quotes the sportswriter Frank Deford, who declared: “If there were one game scheduled, Earth versus the Klingons, with the fate of the universe on the line, any person with his wits about him would have Johnny U. calling signals in the huddle.”
Mr. Wills’s politics have never been doctrinaire, but he makes it clear that he arrived at his middle-class conservatism by temperament. He says the rosary daily. He has never smoked pot. He dresses, in his daughter’s words, “like a bum.” He has had sex with only one woman.
“I agree with Hilaire Belloc: ‘it is well to have loved one woman from a child,’ ” he writes.
More than faith, Mr. Wills admires faithfulness. He’s justifiably proud that he’s been true to his wife, to his friends, to the two universities where he’s taught for long stretches over 43 years and to the few literary agents he’s had. For a man who describes himself as one of the least interesting people on the planet, he makes the old virtues sound surprisingly sexy.
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