Thursday, October 8, 2009

Review: Last Call

I recently wrapped up listening to the Last Call CD series by Tim Staples. Briefly put, I was disappointed, but that's not to say that the series doesn't have good content--it's just not what I was hoping for when I requested it. Based on the description, I was hoping for an in-depth presentation of the Catholic teaching around the Last Things. Certainly, Catholic teaching on this subject was presented; however, it was so couched in apologetics that at times it was a challenge to take away from it what was Catholic and not be distracted by other things.

Part of the problem is the format. The presentation was so riddled with quotes (I swear if I heard "close quote" one more time..) and citations that it was a task to listen to. Extensive quoting and citations is appropriate for apologetics, of course, but it just really doesn't work in extended audio format. A big point of providing citations is so that others can look them up, and unless you're sitting there with a notepad, they're just plain extraneous. I get audio books so I can listen when I can't read--in my truck. I certainly can't be writing down and looking up references.

The constant quoting just wears on the nerves because Tim actually says "quote" and "close quote." I was trying to think about how you could do quotations in an audio book format without doing this. I do think sometimes you could get away with it with appropriate pauses, shifts in tonal quality, and change in language/style, though it would take maybe more planning and thoughtful execution in addition to the already thorough preparation of the content, so I can't fault him too much on that--probably wouldn't be worth the investment.

The other thing that can bug you is the sort of self-assured, almost gloating tone he had at times. "Folks, <chuckle> this is not how it is..." seems to have stuck in my mind as an example of it. It's hard to figure out who the best audience is for this work. The reason is that the presentation manner (and where it is being marketed) indicates it is meant for Catholics, but it seems to me that apologetics in nature are best used as a response to critics.

I have to guess it is meant as training material, but that's not how this work is presented. If you read the description, it sounds like a straightforward elucidation of the Last Things. It sounds like it is geared toward helping you meditate on them and help you "be prepared." It sounded like it'd present the truth as truth, in all its own, self-resplendent beauty and not truth used as a tool to defeat others' positions.

So I don't feel like I can recommend it. I have read a pretty positive review of it, though, so clearly there are different perspectives on it. I think it would help if the book were more clearly presented as an apologetics training tool. As noted, I think there are more appropriate formats for this purpose, and toning down the gloating would make it more appealing, at least to me, who also comes from a Protestant background and still has many family and friends who are Protestant. Even if you are only talking to Catholics, if you're doing it to train them, you shouldn't train them to gloat. It's not polite, and it certainly won't win anyone over.

Thanks to the Catholic Company for sharing this book with me. As part of the new FTC rules, I have to be clear that they gave this book to me in order to elicit a review.