Judging by the cover

Earlier this week the University of Illinois Press sent me an advance copy my southern gospel book. Here I am holding the thing itself in my hands for the first time.

Riveting stuff, eh?

Ok, so Ansel Adams it ain’t, but it was (for me) a strange experience: equal parts relief, satisfaction, queasiness, and vertigo. As a literary critic, I regularly teach and write from the knowledge that the work of art or music or literature or criticism becomes a separate entity from its author once it’s launched off into the great wide open. And of course, blogging or writing scholarly essays or publishing magazine articles is a variation on this experience writ small: relatively low-stakes but nevertheless very vividly felt experiences of sending words out in the world to be one’s ambassador. So standing on the threshold of my own book being inflicted upon the world is more a difference of emphasis than of kind from my life in publishing so far.

Still, this book represents not just a really big chunk of my intellectual, professional, and emotional existence over the past three or four years. It is (as books are wont to be) also deeply intertwined with my sense of myself intellectually, autobiographically, and psychospiritually.

One of the prefaces to the shape-note gospel songbooks I deal with in the book’s second chapter (Dortch’s Gospel Voices No. 1, published by C.H. Robinson and Co. in N.C. in 1895, to be exact) has a wonderful line in it by the book’s editor and chief songwriter. Toward the end of the preface, after describing the merits of his book, the author closes with a Chaucerian-style direct exhortation to the book itself:

Go thou, and do thy work! Strengthen the weak, comfort the sorrowing, bind up the broken-hearted, lift up the fallen, save the lost, and when thou returnest lay many precious sheaves at the Master’s feet.

With apologies to Greg Kihn and Co., they just don’t write ‘em like that anymore.

I’m not sure I’d want to make such lofty claims for my own book, but at a certain level I get where he’s coming from, I think, and understand the giddy sense of anticipation and possibility about one’s work in the world, laced with a thread of anxiety (maybe no one will like it; maybe no one will even read it), which in turn induces a slightly overextended set of claims about the potential significance of one’s own words (Dortch’s is a good songbook, but it’s not all that … I mean, whose work - at least among us mere mortals - could be, really?). And yet, and yet …

Anyway, if you pre-ordered a copy of Then Sings My Soul, or order a copy now, it should ship within the next few weeks.

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  1. Aaron Swain wrote:

    Read the preview from Google, and it definitely seems like something that would be worth the purchase. I may have to get a copy for some summer reading. Glad to finally see this thing come to fruition!

  2. j-mo wrote:

    From the leg crossing technique to the carpet and couch colors…you have proven your devotion to the homosexual lifestyle.

  3. Ode wrote:

    Pre-odered from Amazon. It said “People that bought this book also ordered: Jack Daniels, a rope and a stool” You really got under fundies skin, huh,avie? ;)

    Anxiously waiting, looking forward to reading it. I go to one of those huge churches with a book club, if i like it,will try recommending it there,too. Has that controvertial word ” southern” :/ though.. as living in other part of US taught me it’s a a dirty word (well earned rep, sadly) when applied to religioun or relig.music, I see why SBC is trying to have it removed….

  4. NG wrote:

    Looking forward to reading the book. Ode: I get what you are saying about some folks interpretation of the word southern. But as a Canadian, who has spent some time in the South, I’ve found the folks there these days generally no better or worse than folks elsewhere. A black hockey player from my hometown scored the winning goal against Boston the other night and racist tweets started popping up from beantown. Then again a black player scored a goal here in Ontario this season and some idiot tossed a banana.
    But you’re right about the term southern upsetting some folks. Here’s a guy who wonders if the name “Southern Gospel Music” might be code for racism.


  5. NG wrote:

    Correction: It was a woman and not a guy who wrote the article to which I provided a link in my earlier post.

  6. irishlad wrote:

    3..The spies are out there!….the first time you even think about crossing your legs….:)

  7. judi wrote:

    Looking forward to our pre-ordered copy! And we might order a few more for the friends who have expressed interest in it. Congratulations on your first book-length publication!

  8. quartet-man wrote:

    I’m not sure what the tone behind the comment, and never paid any mind or even particularly noticed the leg crossing, couch and carpet colors. I guess I was more focused on the book. Nonetheless, I found that comment funny. :D

  9. CVH wrote:

    Congrats on the publication. I’ll be ordering one through Amazon. Personally I like the carpet.

  10. T-Rick wrote:

    I can’t remember if you’ve mentioned - is it going to be available in ebook format for Nook and/or Kindle?

  11. Janet B wrote:

    Congratulations, Doug! I just preordered my copy from Amazon (although I was really hoping for a SIGNED copy…oh well…). ;)

    This is quite the accomplishment - to say something important about a subject that you love so dearly. You SHOULD be proud (as well as a little nauseous…lol).

  12. Doug Sword wrote:

    I preordered back in January. I’m looking forward to reading it. I would also be interested in a Kindle edition.

    Maybe we can get our copies signed at NQC.

  13. cynical one wrote:

    Can I get an autographed copy of the Kendle edition? Now that’s just silly!

  14. Wade wrote:

    Dr. DH… Congrats. I am sorry for ppl like j-mo who are so low life they come to your blog and ATTEMPT to disrespect you the way they do… I just love FUNDIES who can’t stay away!!! But at least he comments unlike the other folks we know are here like Dr. Joe etc et al!!!

    Speaking of Dr. Joe.. I love Rusty too!!! But I know he was not the ANGEL you think!!! Don’t ask me how I know he wasn’t unless you REALLY want to know!!!

    Rusty NEVER put it out that he was perfect!!! I respect him for that and had a great time with him!!! I will NEVER forget the date I went to and it was him … Tanya and a little known singer named MICHAEL!!! with one of the BEST BANDS EVER at a Fraternal Org Group they were singing at!!!! THANK GOODNESS there was WOODS close BY!!!

  15. BackwoodsPhilosopher wrote:

    We ordered our copy of “Then Sings My Soul” from the University of Illinois Press, and we look forward to reading it!

    Congratulations on your successful venture!

  16. cynical one wrote:

    j-mo — Talk about judging a book by it’s cover.

  17. RF wrote:

    J-mo, that was totally un-called for. Btw, Doug, ordered the book and am looking forward to reading it.

  18. quartet-man wrote:

    The written word can be tough sometimes. It is hard to tell the tone of someone’s remarks except by context, history etc. I generally try to use smilies to show I am trying to be funny, teasing etc. but even then people fail to get it sometimes. I have no idea if J-mo’s remarks were taken literally or tongue in cheek. In retrospect and looking at it again, I suppose they were meant seriously.

  19. Quartet Fan wrote:


  20. j-mo wrote:

    Obviously a joke guys. I had a big long response typed to explain why the world doesn’t need more emoticons to signal people how to feel, but it’s not really worth it. Bottom line, it was a joke that wasn’t laced with even one ounce of hatred. Get over it and find something else to get self-righteous about now.

  21. ode wrote:

    j-mo, Emoticons are often a necessity- over 60 % of info exchange in personal dialogs happenes in nonverbal ways
    (business comm 101) Unless a blog is very friendly and personal, it’s easy to miscomminucate one’s message. Sorry, you possibly are a great guy, but humor is just not your thing, your attempts at it are most often pretty embarrassing. And you usually feel the need to add something insulting or belittling to others, so its hard to understand your true intentions.

  22. quartet-man wrote:

    I guess my initial thoughts were correct after all. :D I disagree with you on the emoticons though, J-Mo. Words tend to be taken literally since there are no voice fluctuations, facial expressions etc. to help make them clear. In this case too there was no context, and face it, there are people who would say that literally. I am sure I have seen you post here, but not any posts that come to mind, so I didn’t even have any history to go by.

    As far as it being “obvious” it apparently wasn’t since several took it the other way. Just because it is obvious to you what is in your heart and your motivations doesn’t mean it is clear to those who only have the sentence itself to go by.

    So, although I understand your frustration at being questioned (even though I at least first thought it was probably a joke, but not totally sure), I think your getting upset with people is a little misguided. The reason why I changed my mind some after re-reading it was talking about the devotion to the lifestyle.

    So, I mostly gave you the benefit of the doubt that it could be either way, and even though I sort of started leaning the other direction at the end, I still gave room for the fact that I didn’t know. That is more than many do.

  23. ode wrote:

    4,NG, you are right , its no more racist than elsewhere. Only in catholic churches I see diversity, most protestant of all stripes are firmly segregated, all over US.

    “Southern”,in religious or relig.music context, is a dirty word not due to racism –there are black singers in SG- but due to it being synonymous with weird theology, prosperity preaching, fake religiosity and remorse-less embracing of the worst sins, like sanctimonious self piety and hate. Self praising attitude and blatant disregard for humility that mars SGM culture is too much. Of course, such sin is ever-present, but it’s much more prominent there.

    And the lack of self control! When a singer, ignorant of the Bible, babbles utter silliness,like making our Savior Jesus Christ, the Messiah, a sinner because Jesus drunk wine and gave alcohol to others… Gerald Wolfe’s nasty mouth would get him booed off the stage in most churches here, regardless of how good he sings.

    Got to admit, I was a naïve and young foreigner, thinking that people warning about godlessness of Bible Belt preachers and religionists were unfair,result of the old feud, etc.. Eating my words now is a very humbling experience.

  24. Soli Deo Gloria wrote:

    Ode nailed it in No. 23, paragraph 2.

  25. Alan wrote:

    Ode: (#23)

    ““Southern”,in religious or relig.music context, is a dirty word not due to racism –there are black singers in SG- but due to it being synonymous with weird theology, prosperity preaching, fake religiosity and remorse-less embracing of the worst sins, like sanctimonious self piety and hate. Self praising attitude and blatant disregard for humility that mars SGM culture is too much. Of course, such sin is ever-present, but it’s much more prominent there.”

    “Got to admit, I was a naïve and young foreigner, thinking that people warning about godlessness of Bible Belt preachers and religionists were unfair,result of the old feud, etc.. Eating my words now is a very humbling experience.”

    So let’s see; VA, NC, SC, GA, FL, TN, AR, AL, MS, LA, TX, KY, WV, maybe OK. So, either 13 or 14 Southern states. And according to you, every Christian in them is racist, practices weird theology, are religious fakes, believes in prosperity preaching, embraces the worst sins without remorse, and are arrogant and boastful? As well, every preacher in those 13 or 14 states is Godless?

    And, despite this blanket indictment, not a thing to be taken lightly, you always take the place here of one who sticks up for the maligned, the downtrodden, the “victims” of prejudice, and of one who just hates any expression of the condemnation of sin? Unbelievable. Honestly, it is….

  26. j-mo wrote:


    You should start working on a bible translation that uses emoticons to help people understand the intent of that communication.

    Intelligent written communication existed for centuries without emoticons, so you’ll have a tough time convincing me they are a necessity now. The addition of a smiley face doesn’t make an offensive statement any less so and the omission of a smiley-face doesn’t make an innocent statement any less innocent. I say if you’re not sure whether something is harmless or offensive and you can’t tell for sure what the intent is, it’s probably a fine rule of thumb just not to be offended by it or express outrage over it. I classify not doing so as hyper-sensitivity.

    As far as humour not being my thing, you’ve caught me, my true identity is Aaron Wilburn! Oops, there I go being mean again with an embarrassing attempt at a joke. If I type a passive-aggressive smiley face right here will you be less offended?

  27. irishlad wrote:

    25 Alan, maybe Ode has had a few genuinely bad experiences in the Southern evangelical world in general and the Southern Baptists in particular to paint everyone with that(perhaps somewhat unfairly) broad brush, but hey, that’s women for you :) ( inserted to clarify my intentions). I’m sure her concerns are not totally unfounded.

  28. irishlad wrote:

    26 j-mo,if you believe the Bible to be the inspired word of a Holy and infallible God,why indeed would emoticons be necessary?.However, on a blog such as this with all classes of dubious and duplicitous characters contributing(present writer excluded-insert smiley here) i believe a certain degree of transparency is required, thus emoticons in this context are an useful and elucidative tool.

  29. Wade wrote:

    j-mo … you are an idiot!!! Come ON!!! What an insane argument!!!

    First of all you are lying because you did mean it and then when called on it you couldn’t get your BEEP signal fast or loud enough while you are BACKING UP!!!

    Those comment were TOTALLY disrespectful of some one’s VERY hard work!!!

    2nd — We at one time used rocks and wrote on stones and while some one like you has not progressed very far from then!!! Some of use what ever NEW TOOLS we are given to more effectively communicate. While Q-Man might not remember ya you have a track record about as long as BROOKE for letting your mouth over ride your ass!!!

    NO SMILES!!!

    ode I do thing the Bible with emoticons would be a good idea and maybe even MORE Pictures for the likes of j-mo!!!!

  30. Hector Luna wrote:

    Just bought my copy. Can’t wait. The crossing of the legs only enhances my interest in reading it…for what it tells me is that it will be a completely relaxing read with a hot cup of coffee or tea or pint of Newcastle, Guinness, or perhaps a Sam Adams seasonal and the southern Bible belt culture will all come undone. So feel comfortable, however you sit. I’ll be singing “I Just Feel Like Something Good Is About To Happen”.

    But seriously, I’ll probably sit in my recliner and read the thing. When he does write about sgm, Doug’s the best out there, Danny Jones notwithstanding.

  31. ode wrote:

    25, I specifically said it’s NOT associated with racism, and it’s NOT “everyone”, just that its more common in the B.Belt, you quoted me yourself. Yes, there are some wonderful, godly, excellent southern Christians,who resist that fundie godless crap and wide acceptance of sin. Read my positon on this in post #38, here: http://averyfineline.com/2012/03/26/open-thread-48/

  32. ode wrote:

    26,Well, Bible is a book, not a private dialog. But upon thinking it all thru- you are right, smilies are a cop out.I knew you joked of Avery, all your prev. posts were in support of gay issues. I defend my emoticons for no good reason,actually,just my laziness to find creative expressive ways. Indeed, if someone timetraveled from the old days they’d think of us as of a bunch of maleducated idiots. I was just reading some Spurgeon sermons-people surely knew how to communicate their points in writing back then.
    I’ll google Aaron. There are Wilburn singers, if I recall correctly?

    29,Wadey, that a great idea, Bible with pictures! I‘m making a coloring Special Edition AveryFineLine Commemorative Bible. To honor participants and singers, all Biblical characters will be drawn in the likes of actual people. Who wants to be whom, ladies and gents? Wadey- Moses? Soli- apostle Paul? BWP – Avigail or Devorah? Avery – young David ? Neah, that comes with 9 wives.Apostle John maybe. Cynical,Ilad- ?

  33. ode wrote:

    27, no i-laddie, i didnt have any. Most fundie SBs are too ignorant to debate, too ball-less to fight, and too fat to run. Yet smart enough to stay away from ode, i give em that:)

  34. Judi wrote:

    Well, the U if I Press has just now charged my credit card for my pre-ordered copy, so maybe that means they are one step closer to shipping it! Looking forward to planning a trip to get your autograph, too.

  35. Wade wrote:

    ode… you are not right… j-mo is not supportive of AFL gay rights… he is s HATER!!!!

  36. irishlad wrote:

    32 Yes Ode..cynical lol, you forgot CVH, John the Baptist ? :)

  37. irishlad wrote:

    Ode ,Aaron Wilburn is one of BG’s collectibles, of the rib-tickling variety. The Wilburns you’re thinking of is the father and son duo comprising of Johnathan Wilburn former lead singer w/Gold City and his son.

  38. Gospel Hasbeen wrote:

    I received my copy of Doug’s book in the mail today. Can’t wait to read it. I’ve read most that have been released but I’ve got a feeling this one will have a different spin on it.

  39. j-mo wrote:


    I know reading is difficult for you, but it probably would have been a good idea for you to go back and read the history of my posts before making a definitive statement like #35. Props to Ode for doing so.

    You don’t like me because your selective memory can only recall the parts of my history where I have mocked you for your incoherent ramblings, horrible spelling/grammar, and uninformed posts like #35. That’s fine. I have given you those reasons to dislike me and wouldn’t expect anything different. But no need to invent new false reasons about me being a gay “hater”.

  40. Wade wrote:

    OK j-mo… BEEP BEEP even more. I ‘ll keep giving ya reasons. I’ve got better things to do than to grade ppl’s writings and attempt to go back and SCREEN their feelings. Think I’ve been around to understand most ppl’s takes!!! Your a HATER face it!!! It’s OK!! Just know what ya are!!!

  41. Ron F wrote:

    Just received my book today. Can’t wait to read it.

  42. quartet-man wrote:

    I should have my copy tomorrow. I would have gotten the hardcover normally, but that one was way too rich for my blood.

  43. Ode wrote:

    37 thank you, Ilad. I have only one cd of those Wilburn boys, they are very good, in my humble.

  44. BackwoodsPhilosopher wrote:

    I just received my copy of “Then Sings My Soul” from UI Press. If you ordered from UI, it should arrive in just a few days. (I ordered mine on April 30th)

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