Thursday, March 28, 2019

Book Review: The Song of a Seeker—Sunday Will Never Be the Same

Sunday Will Never Be the Same: A Rock and roll Journalist Opens Her Ears to God
by Dawn Eden Goldstein

I have to confess that almost all of the musical allusions in Dawn Eden Goldstein's recently released memoirs were lost on me, including the one in the title. (I had to be tipped off by a Twitter post that it was a musical allusion.) Having discovered classical music by an accidental turn of the radio dial when I was thirteen (it was a turquoise transistor radio, and yes, it had actual dials), I never caught up with the popular music my peers were listening to. So in that sense, I'm not the best one to review the unlikely journey of the Generation X Jewish rock historian who became a Catholic theologian.
What I read was the story of a soul, or, if you will, given Goldstein's original career, the “song” of a seeker. For through the confusing turns of her life, Goldstein never stopped seeking. Most of the time, she was seeking love: the deep, tender love of a man who would recognize her, cherish her, understand her. But at the same time, she was seeking God, never letting go of her habit of saying a simple prayer at night, clinging to what she could find or recognize as “trustworthy and true” and consistent with her early Jewish upbringing, whether she found that in the lyrics of a song, in the (surprisingly direct) answers to her most unlikely prayers, or in the pages of the (free!) New Testament she accepted from an earnest Christian on West 4th Street in New York City.

Her deep familiarity with the independent musicians of the early rock scene surprised me: This was the music of her mother's generation, and of an eclectic type at that. But it makes sense. As a small child, Goldstein had to navigate her parents' divorce and subsequent relationships: her father's new marriage, and her mother's difficult succession of romantic partners,  unexpected conversion to Catholicism (and later move to a messianic Jewish-Christian assembly) and remarriage. The musicians who appealed most to Goldstein seem to have been poets whose albums were appreciated by an ardent, but small following. Their music was intimate: spare instrumentation, exposed vocals. Musical partnerships were strong, too: songwriters knew the range and abilities of the players and singers. Singer-songwriters were in an even better position: they could directly express their own feelings musically. 

During her college years, Goldstein willingly put in hundreds of hours of unpaid internship, not for credits, but for the opportunity to spend time in the world of independent music. She wrote for underground 'zines and churned out piecework, and every weekend she found a club where she could soak in the live music and dance in the darkness, all the while studying the musicians, looking for the type “who creates music from his heart” and dreaming of being loved “like he loves music itself.” Mostly, though, the closest she could get to any of the musicians was through a song request or an interview.

In her final semester of college, Goldstein managed to interview a favorite songwriter, an encounter that confirmed the connection she had felt with him through his music. “And then I found myself opening up to him about my depression and my fears for the future. … He said that anytime I needed someone to talk to, I could call him.” She was nearly suicidal all the time, but left that interview thinking “I have to stay alive. Del wants me to.”

Nine months later, when she learned of his death (sadly, by suicide), the notes and the interview tape were still untouched. Aware enough of her tendency to depression to realize that she might never carry through on the potential of that interview (“I only enjoy the research, not the actual writing”), Goldstein was determined to honor the deceased by turning the interview material into a fitting memorial of his life and music. It was as if she had a mission from him as well: not only to offer personal condolences to his widow but to locate an important collaborator (and musical inventor), inform him of the death, and help him connect with the family. She wasn't just reporting on music history, she was participating in it.

Armed at last with a music-business degree, Goldstein found that it unlocked doors...nowhere. Instead, she paid the rent with the help of her parents and the odd writing jobs she found through the classified ads. One job that started out promisingly enough led instead to an assignment writing catalog entries for porn videos. (You have to read the book to see how neatly God handled that problem.) But the liner notes, show reviews, and freelance assignments from significant industry publications and websites (still a new format!) started to win name recognition for the writer with the byline “Dawn Eden”: She landed a cover story for Billboard (a name that even I recognize!).

I believe Goldstein speaks for millions when she writes, diary-style, of her feelings in 1985: “I can take being unhappy because unhappiness comes and goes. What I can't take is the ongoing sense of sadness that lingers beneath the surface even when I am having fun.” Throughout her young adulthood, Goldstein assumed that the solution to her constant depression would be in finding her life's companion, but she began to suspect that that might not be the case: “that even the most attractive, most big-hearted, most creative man would never be able to understand me in the way I want to be understood.” In the book's context, that just sounds like another expression of her depressed state; seen in the wider context of her life (and of her 2015 book, The Thrill of the Chaste) those words are actually prophetic. (That 2015 title, by the way, hints at Goldstein's incredible facility with pun-ishing titles and headlines, a skill which she practiced professionally at the New York Post, and then at its rival, the Daily News.

Wondering aloud where a particularly lyrical turn of phrase came from, Goldstein was led by a songwriter to the oldest book she ever encountered outside of a British Lit class: the 1908 novel The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton. (It would not be her last Chesterton read.)

Right as she was losing her job at the New York Post, Goldstein experienced the coming-together of her growing faith in Jesus (she had been baptized a few years earlier as a “generic” Christian) and an appreciation of the Catholic communion of saints that had had its opening with Chesterton and the ardent members of the Chesterton Society with whom she had been meeting on a regular basis (although their over-the-top cheerleading for Catholicism was a real turn-off). As Goldstein's regular readers (and followers on social media) already know, becoming a Catholic was the beginning of a new life that no one could have foretold.

Sunday Will Never Be the Same is part #MeToo, part conversion story, part a love song to the indie music scene. I recommend it in a particular way to pastoral ministers for its inside look into the interior sufferings of a generation that is seeking for a love it does not feel worthy of. Isn't that the spiritual condition of so many of the walking wounded today, especially those who, like Goldstein, suffered abuse at an early age?

Other books by Goldstein:
My Peace I Give You: Healing Sexual Wounds with the Help of the Saints
Remembering God's Mercy: Redeem the Past and Free Yourself from Painful Memories

Disclosure of Material Connection: The links above are affiliate links, so if you purchase a copy of the book through the link, I may get a minuscule credit toward...more books! In addition, I received a review copy of Sunday Will Never Be the Same for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog and other social media. I am committed to giving as honest a review as possible, as part of my community's mission of putting media at the service of the truth. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

1 comment:

plato said...

Just in case you are interestewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww The author of the book you have reviewed here has been on EWTN'S, the Journey Home twice, telling her conversion story.

The Journey Home - 2012-11-12 - Convert from Judaism - Marcus Grodi with Dawn Eden

Journey Home - 2018-11-05 - Dr. Dawn Eden Goldstein