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The Flight of Peter Fromm Paperback – October 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Martin Gardner, the creator of Scientific American’s "Mathematical Games" column, which he wrote for more than twenty-five years, is the author of almost one hundred books, including The Annotated Ancient Mariner, Martin Gardner’s Favorite Poetic Parodies, From the Wandering Jew to William F. Buckley Jr., and Science: Good, Bad and Bogus. For many years he was also a contributing editor to the Skeptical Inquirer.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879759119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879759117
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #992,149 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For 25 of his 95 years, Martin Gardner wrote 'Mathematical Games and Recreations', a monthly column for Scientific American magazine. These columns have inspired hundreds of thousands of readers to delve more deeply into the large world of mathematics. He has also made significant contributions to magic, philosophy, debunking pseudoscience, and children's literature. He has produced more than 60 books, including many best sellers, most of which are still in print. His Annotated Alice has sold more than a million copies. He continues to write a regular column for the Skeptical Inquirer magazine.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By David Mitchel on April 16, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is one heck of an entertaining book. The main reason is this: Gardner's narrator, Homer Wilson, is downright hilarious. Both his telling of Peter's story and his asides remind me of Uncle Screwtape in C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters. Throughout the book, Homer subtly spins every story he recounts and every subject he addresses. His descriptions of certain real-life people are especially funny. For example, Homer describes C. S. Lewis, whose works were broadly Christian, as an "Anglican apologist." He describes J. Gresham Machen, who hated to be called a fundamentalist, as "the last of the scholarly fundamentalists." And those are just two little examples of Homer's spinning. It is strangely exciting to read a story narrated by someone you know you can't trust.
_The Flight of Peter Fromm_ is poignant in that Peter is ultimately ruined by Homer's spinning. Reason does not demand the loss of faith that Peter experiences, but the constant influence of the culture in which he lives, which subjects all things Christian to radical doubt while accepting the bases and consequences of agnosticism unquestioningly, eventually wears him down. Fortunately, Peter's end is hardly the necessary one for those committed to the life of the mind.
Finally, this story is eye-opening in that it reveals what can happen to those who are too brash and self-assured. Peter just knew he would convert the University of Chicago; instead the University toppled him. If Peter had been a little more humble he may have emerged from divinity school with his faith alive and enriched and refined.
I would recommend _The Flight of Peter Fromm_ to both agnostics and Christians.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By John Rummel on July 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Gardner's only fiction as far as I know, and what a beauty! Gardner follows the young Fromm on his journey from religious fundamentalism to skeptical enlightenment. Fromm is a student in a liberal Chicago seminary who discovers for the first time in his life that alternative explanations exist for much of the dogma he's accepted since his youth. This story is phenomenal and should be read by anyone having a religious background, regardless of where you are in your spiritual journey now.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kenneth R. Mabry on May 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a compelling drama of theological ideas written in 1973 by Martin Gardner (1914 - 2010) who was primarily a mathematics and science writer.

The novel unfolds as a retrospective by Homer Wilson, a Unitarian minister and teacher at the University of Chicago's theology school, after a breakdown during an Easter sermon by Wilson's fiery fundamentalist student, Peter Fromm.

Fromm, raised in a fundamentalist Pentecostal church, chooses to attend the University of Chicago for the express purpose of defeating the ideas emanating from one of the country's most liberal seminaries. While they have diametrically opposed views, Wilson, who does not beleive in God, remains involved with Fromm and tells his story.

This scaffolding is a set up for contrasts between Fromm's vise-like grasp on fundamentalism and Wilson's unbelief, and includes discussions of the ideas of prominent theologians such as Karl Barth and Paul Tillich. We see how a liberal education and the unfolding of life itself eventually dismantle Fromm's fundamentalism and lead to his breakdown.

For many, reading theology is a dry exersice in abstraction. As with writers such as Iris Murdoch, Gardner dramatizes such ideas in the form of a novel which draws them down into the human struggle and makes them much more accessible and compelling.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By not4prophet on September 16, 2009
Format: Paperback
Most novels are dumbed-down, even the good ones. That may be a unexpected statement, but I think it's true. We traditionally say that the characters in a cliched novel are "two dimensional", while a more fully realized cast of characters is "three-dimensional". Real people, however, are neither two-dimensional nor three-dimensional. They are many-dimensional. Every person is pulled in so many different directions by so many different forces that most authors would despair of capturing the essence of humanity in a novel.

Martin Gardner does not, and we are the beneficiaries of it. "The Flight of Peter Fromm" is a remarkable coming-of-age tale, the story of a young man struggling through the tumultuous intellectual climate of the middle twentieth century. Peter Fromm grows up in rural Idaho and as a teenager gives sermons at outdoor revival meetings. Determined to fight for the Lord, he travels to Chicago University and enrolls in the seminary, with a long-term plan of tearing down modernist thinking and restoring the old religion. Not surprisingly, the task proves tougher than he initially thought. Within a few months, Peter himself starts changing.

What makes this book special, besides the stunning character development, is Gardner's tremendous knowledge of nearly everything and his ability to weave this into the story. He displays an encyclopedic knowledge of philosophy and theology from medieval times up to the twentieth century. Beyond that, however, he sneaks in comments on everything from south-side Chicago restaurants to the navy in WWII. Real people from the faculty at the University of Chicago to famous minds like Karl Barth appear as characters in the story, and it will take an alert reader indeed to fully separate fact from fiction.
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