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The Education of David Martin
Regent College Publishing, 2014
264 pp., 25.82
John G. Stackhouse, Jr.
"His Wonders to Perform"
Only a person possessed of extraordinary humility, hard-won and now lightly worn, with a self-deprecating twinkle in his eye, would even think to begin a memoir with a cascade of failure, desultoriness, and anxiety:
In my eightieth year, 2009, I was working with my friend Otto Kallscheuer for the European Commission, and he asked me how I became a sociologist. I explained that in 1947 I had been refused university entrance to study English Literature and failed a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. I had spent 1952 to 1959 as a primary school teacher in West London and Somerset. I stumbled on sociology by accident when a colleague in the Somerset school showed me his correspondence course for an external London University degree. From 1956, when my first marriage broke up, to 1959, I followed that course in my spare time. To my astonishment I won the annual university scholarship in sociology and entered university as a postgraduate. Between 1959 and 1971, as I moved from primary school teaching in SW14 to an LSE chair, I was besieged by neurasthenia and a chronic fear I was an interloper with no right of entry. The aftershocks never fully dissipated. Otto thought the story worth telling, though he can have had no idea of the travail of telling it or the re-examination of self it might require.
David Martin, along with Oxford's Bryan Wilson one of the twin pillars of British sociology of religion in our day, has at last released a slim volume of memoirs. The book is not, it should be made clear at the outset, simply an autobiography. Martin avers that he has "little to say about the most important things in my life: my second marriage, the travails and triumphs of children, holidays, my sister, the death of parents, intellectual interlocutors, professional co-operations and friendships." Instead, the book recounts a pilgrim's progress toward the celestial city of reconciliation: reconciliation of faith and modernity, of piety and intellect, ...