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For week ended October 3, 1999 Posted 24 Oct 1999

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Mormon Wayne Booth's book explores Amateurs (The arrogant amateur)

Summarized by Rosemary Pollock

Mormon Wayne Booth's book explores Amateurs (The arrogant amateur)
without permission. For list info see
Mormon Wayne Booth's book explores Amateurs (The arrogant amateur)

Wayne C. Booth, retired English professor from the University of Chicago and amateur cellist, explores the pursuit of activities solely for the satisfaction and fulfillment it affords, in his newly released book, For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals. Booth explores how the time we spend in this pursuit is either squandered or redeemed.

Hundreds of absorbing questions are raised as Booth frequently veers off course. He attempts to squeeze every last drop of himself into this modest 256 page volume. With all his formal learning, Booth repeats himself. He writes incessantly obout his own writing and his great love of music. "We amateurs never play without a lot of talk," he concedes.

Booth has something of a cracker-barrel philosophy. His is as familiar as Charles Kuralt, Andy Rooney, Garrison Keillor or Robert Fulhum. He could be perfectly at home with the sensibilities of National Public Radio.

"Musical memories are among my earliest," Booth confides. "The only rivals are of physical pains and parental punishment for sexual exploring," he said. Booth grew up in his own words, "in a puritanical Mormon family," a fact he laments often. He tells a haunting story of his forteen-year-old friend who, "invited me to go with his family north to the big city to hear Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra in the Mormon Tabernacle," one year prior to the death of his young friend.

He relates his Army experience in WWII as a turn of events that brought on a crisis of faith. "I came to an absolute decision about God, for the first time since my childhood orthodoxy. It was not just a strong suspicion, but a firm rejection: any God who could play an unfair trick like this on those miserable buddies was no God at all. He had died, and along with Him the music faded," he states.

He has an unseemly taste for pathos, even the macabre too-frequent use of his son's death. He focuses on the fear of permanent injury from his wife's fall that caused her to break her knee. "For weeks there was no cello or violin practice, no quartet playing. I was filled with the fear that the injury would not heal. My unspoken thought was, 'I'll have to live with an aging, crippled wife from here on,'" he thought.

For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals is available through University of Chicago Press for $22.00

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information