Stephen Catanzarite: Achtung, Baby: Meditations on Love in the Shadows of the Fall (Continuum Books)

Book Review

Oct 17, 2007 at 2:06 pm

Stephen Catanzarite has reflected on a beloved Rock album and turned his reflections into a book. Not only that, but his book is theological, Christian, Catholic and concerned with humanity's place in the world.Ambitious, no? A lesser album would collapse under such ponderings, but U2's Achtung Baby is a "heavy mother," to quote the band's ever-quotable lead vocalist.And The Edge lists "betrayal" among the album's chief preoccupations, so bringing it all back home to Adam and Eve's betrayal of God does work. The book is a good primer on moral theology — an oddity in the 33 1/3 book series. Our guide cites Augustine, Newman and more luminaries without any quote seeming irrelevant.And still the book stays connected to the music, delving into both words and instrumental landscape. Two quarrels: First, three taboos fascinate U2: sex, God and politics. Catanzarite describes an Adam and Eve losing and finding each other and their Maker in a neon city.That covers sex and God. But politics? In an epilogue Catanzarite mentions upheavals occurring in Achtung Baby's era but not a whisper elsewhere.He quotes the exquisite apocalypse of Yeats' poem "The Second Coming," but relates it not to chaos in wartime but to breakdowns in personal relationships. Second, Catanzarite praises "Mysterious Ways" as an ode to feminine inspiration. He challenges disrespect of women and yet never quotes a single woman author. It's a glaring omission in a Catholic-worldview book — U2 themselves have spoken often of their indebtedness to, for instance, Flannery O'Connor. It would take 10 more books to maybe start to describe Achtung Baby. Catanzarite is brave to try. (Angela Pancella) Grade: B