The only standard we have for judging all of our social, economic, and political institutions and arrangements as just or unjust, as good or bad, as better or worse, derives from our conception of the good life for man on earth, and from our conviction that, given certain external conditions, it is possible for men to make good lives for themselves by their own efforts.

Mortimer Adler
(Chicago, IL: University of Chicago)

In that world, you’ll be able to rise in the morning with the spirit you had known in your childhood: that spirit of eagerness, adventure and certainty which comes from dealing with a rational universe.

Ayn Rand
Atlas Shrugged (New York: Dutton Plume, 1957), 648

The Serenity Prayer: Faith and Politics in Times of Peace and War (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2005)

In 1943, the renowned theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote a prayer for a church service in a New England village. Its appeal for grace, courage, and wisdom soon became famous the world over. Here, Elisabeth Sifton, Niebuhr’s daughter, reclaims the true history of the Serenity Prayer and, in a poignant narrative, tells of efforts made by the brave men and women who, like Niebuhr, devoted their lives to the causes of social justice, racial equality, and religious freedom in a world spiraling into and out of economic depression and war. Recalling her father’s efforts to warn the clergy of the dangers of fascism, and of America’s own social and spiritual crises, Sifton reminds us of what is possible when liberal, open-minded leaders—not zealous fundamentalists or hawkish plutocrats—shape the conscience of the nation. The Serenity Prayer is itself a meditation on the power of prayer in morally compromised, unstable times. A New York Times Notable Book.

Crossing all religious boundaries, the Serenity Prayer may be the best-loved prayer in America. Why? Elisabeth Sifton gives the best answer by remembering a life lived in fidelity to the prayer, the life of her father, the prayer’s author, Reinhold Niebuhr. Candidly observed, brimful of energy and wit, this memoir becomes by its end a moving meditation on the dark heart of the twentieth century.

—Jack Miles, author of Christ: A Crisis in the Life of God

Elisabeth Sifton’s The Serenity Prayer is in part a memoir of her father, Reinhold Niebuhr, in part a meditation on the dilemmas of religious faith in the contemporary world. Beautifully written, filled with perceptive insights and wry humor, it is a major contribution to the intellectual history of modernity.

—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

The Serenity Prayer is an adventure in applied theology, family history, and a nation’s search for meaning. Elisabeth Sifton has written a deeply engaging work of memory and imagination; a broadside critique of politics and religion worthy of the name Niebuhr; a humane meditation on prayer; memoir at its best; nothing less than literature.

—James Carroll

It is forbidden to look back with envy upon Reinhold Niehbur and the other religious intellectuals brought back to life so vividly in Elisabeth Sifton’s important book, because the world in which they lived was truly dark. But they were, truly, children of light. In their intrepid, learned, and humane minds, ideas of God mingled naturally with ideas of liberalism: so how can one not read The Serenity Prayer without a tremor of nostalgia? Here are men and women praying as intelligently as they were thinking and thinking as intensely as they were praying. Sifton’s steadfast and affecting memoir leaves me not just admiring her father, it leaves me also loving him.

—Leon Wieselthier

[An] ebullient and shrewd meditation on faith and social action….A peaceable state of mind simply accompanies the reader as he ends this effortlessly elegant, uniformly sensible paean to the human faith that Sifton inherited.”—Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer “A timely reminder of the wealth and diversity of the American religious tradition.

—Walter Russell Mead, Foreign Affairs 12 illustrations

Ayn Rand vs Jesus at International Students for Liberty Conference this Weekend

On Saturday, February 15th at 3:00 pm, The Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics will host a panel discussion entitled, “Ayn Rand vs Jesus.” I’m excited about it. I’ll be on the panel, hosted by Dr. Anne Bradley, speaking about Ayn Rand and Christianity. If all goes as planned, the panelists will mostly be taking […]

Ayn Rand and the World She Made (New York: Anchor, 2010)

Ayn Rand’s books have attracted three generations of readers, shaped the Libertarian movement, influenced White House economic policies throughout the Reagan years and beyond, and inspired the Tea Party movement. Yet twenty-eight years after her death, readers know very little about her life.

In this seminal biography, Anne C. Heller traces the controversial author’s life from her childhood in Bolshevik Russia to her years as a Hollywood screenwriter, the publication of her blockbuster novels, and the rise and fall of the cult that worshipped her in the 1950s and 1960s. Based on original research in Russia and scores of interviews with Rand’s acquaintances and former acolytes, Ayn Rand and the World She Made is a comprehensive and eye-opening portrait of one of the most significant and improbable figures of the twentieth century.

Let’s talk about the success of the Atlas Shrugged movies

Have you seen either of the first two movies in Ayn Rand‘s Atlas Shrugged trilogy? A friend of mine pulled me aside to say that he just saw the Atlas Shrugged movie (both Part 1 and Part 2) this past weekend and he enjoyed them both… more than he thought he would. Without reservation, I’m […]

Stein on Writing (St. Martin's Griffin, 2000)

Description of Stein on Writing:

Stein on Writing provides immediately useful advice for all writers of fiction and nonfiction, whether they are newcomers or old hands, students or instructors, amateurs or professionals. As the always clear and direct Stein explains here, “This is not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions–how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.” With examples from bestsellers as well as from students’ drafts, Stein offers detailed sections on characterization, dialogue, pacing, flashbacks, trimming away flabby wording, the so-called “triage” method of revision, using the techniques of fiction to enliven nonfiction, and more.

From Publishers Weekly

In this stimulating guide, a veteran novelist (The Magician), editor (Stein & Day) and teacher offers a banquet of savvy advice. Unlike Anne Lamott et al., Stein aims not to help his readers wrestle with writerly anguish; rather, he gets on the page, citing examples from writers famous and fledgling, closely analyzing first sentences, creation of character, plotting and dialogue (use “speech markers” to differentiate among characters). Stein concentrates more on fiction?point of view and the creation of love scenes?but his advice on such issues as self-editing and choosing a title applies also to nonfiction. A section on nonfiction contains worthy remarks about adapting fictional techniques (suspense, visual particularity, etc.) but is too brief to be a full guide to journalistic writing or producing an account of a historic event.

 

Amazon.com Review

“The best reading experiences,” says Sol Stein, “defy interruption.” With Stein’s assistance, you can grab your reader on page 1 and not let go until “The End.” Stein–author of nine novels (including the bestselling The Magician) and editor to James Baldwin, W.H. Auden, and Lionel Trilling–offers “usable solutions” for any writing problem you may encounter. He is authoritative and commanding–neither cheerleader nor naysayer. Instead, he rails against mediocrity and demands that you expunge it from your work. Perhaps the concept of scrutinizing every modifier, every metaphor, every character trait sounds like drudgery. But with Stein’s lively guidance, it is a pleasure. Stein recommends that you brew conflict in your prose by giving your characters different “scripts.” He challenges you, in an exercise concerning voice, to write the sentence you want the world to remember you by. He uses an excerpt from E.L. Doctorow to demonstrate poorly written monologue and a series of Taster’s Choice commercials as an example of dialogue that works. Stein’s bottom line is that good writing must be suspenseful. Your job, says Stein, “is to give readers stress, strain, and pressure. The fact is that readers who hate those things in life love them in fiction.” —Jane Steinberg

 

On Goodreads.com

Stein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and StrategiesStein On Writing: A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies by Sol Stein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Interesting, entertaining, provocative. Started reading, but then it was due in the library and I haven’t gone back. Should I? I keep thinking about it. Stein has a wealth of experience and is a good storyteller. It was motivating to me when I needed to get started writing.

You can read my reviews (I posted at various points as I read through) on Goodreads.com. View all of them.If you are on Goodreads, please visit my author site and “Like” The Soul of Atlas.