My latest read.
Charles Marsh’s A Strange Glory: A Life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
It was Eric Metaxas’ tome that served as my first real introduction to the story of Bonhoeffer, so I hadn’t imagined needing to read another biography, Metaxas covered the ground so well, his book almost reading like a devotional for me at times.
But then I saw this title and Speakeasy sent me a copy to read and review.
Yes. There is room for another biography.
I still love Metaxas’ work, but Marsh in his lively and meticulously researched book showed me refracted views of Bonhoeffer’s story and character that I hadn’t seen. In many ways I felt as if I was meeting Bonhoeffer anew, and he’s always worth meeting, so the book richly repaid each moment spent. And as a bonus, Marsh sent me frequently to the dictionary to dig into words that are either new acquaintances or ones that I’ve met and quite forgotten. I know this may not be a selling point for all too many of us. But it should be. We need a rekindled love affair with words!
Musing on the refracted views I mentioned – I was reminded of this comment by Joshua Shenk about histories and biographies and how when we tell the truth of them we invariably “tell it slant” to use Dickinson’s phrase:
Historians must choose interpretative frameworks. And in this they are inexorably subject to the fancies and suppositions of the times they live in. As times change, so do popular dogmas and curiosities. Therefore our approach to history changes as well. This is not to say that history is merely subjective, but that objective and subjective realities interact to create a foundation of accepted truth. “What happens over and over,” J. G. Randall wrote in 1945, introducing the first volume of his biography Lincoln the President, “is that a certain idea gets started in association with an event or figure. It is repeated by speakers and editors. It soon becomes a part of that superficial aggregation of concepts that goes under the heading ‘what everybody knows.’ It may take decades before a stock picture is even questioned as to its validity.”
Joshua Wolf Shenk, Lincoln’s Melancholy
I suppose what I feel Marsh has done with Bonhoeffer is taking what for me was a bit of a stock picture and giving it some helpful dimensions that have helped me to better “behold the man.”
And with such a man and story as Bonhoeffer, that is a true gift.
Take and read.