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Father Joe
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A key comic writer of the past three decades has created his most heartfelt and hard-hitting book. Father Joe is Tony Hendra's inspiring true story of finding faith, friendship, and family through the decades-long influence of a surpassingly wise Benedictine monk named Father Joseph Warrillow.
Like everything human, it started with sex. In 1955, fourteen-year-old Tony found himself entangled with a married Catholic woman. In Cold War England, where Catholicism was the subject of news stories and Graham Greene bestsellers, Tony was whisked off by the woman's husband to see a priest and be saved.
Yet what he found was a far cry from the priests he'd known at Catholic school, where boys were beaten with belts or set upon by dogs. Instead, he met Father Joe, a gentle, stammering, ungainly Benedictine who never used the words "wrong" or "guilt," who believed that God was in everyone and that "the only sin was selfishness." During the next forty years, as his life and career drastically ebbed and flowed, Tony discovered that his visits to Father Joe remained the one constant in his life--the relationship that, in the most serious sense, saved it.
From the fifties and his adolescent desire to join an abbey himself; to the sixties, when attending Cambridge and seeing the satire of "Beyond the Fringe convinced him to change the world with laughter, not prayer; to the seventies and successful stints as an original editor of "National Lampoon and a writer of "Lemmings, the off-Broadway smash that introduced John Belushi and Chevy Chase; to professional disaster after co-creating the legendary English series "Spitting Image; from drinking to drugs, from a failed first marriage to asuccessful second and the miracle of parenthood--the years only deepened Tony's need for the wisdom of his other and more real father, creating a bond that could not be broken, even by death.
A startling departure for this acclaimed satirist, Father Joe is a sincere account of how Tony Hendra learned to love. It's the story of a whole generation looking for a way back from mockery and irony, looking for its own Father Joe, and a testament to one of the most charismatic mentors in modern literature.

"From the Hardcover edition.

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About the Author

TONY HENDRA attended Cambridge University, where he performed frequently with friends and future Monty Pythons John Cleese and Graham Chapman. He is the author of Going Too Far, a classic history of modern American satire. He was editor in chief of Spy magazine, an original editor of the National Lampoon, and he played Ian Faith in the movie, This Is Spinal Tap. He has written frequently for New York, Harper's, GQ, Vanity Fair, Men's Journal, and Esquire, among other magazines. He is married to Carla Hendra; they have three young children, Lucy, Sebastian, and Nicholas.

Reviews

When he was 14, Hendra had an affair with a married woman. One afternoon, her husband, a devout Roman Catholic, discovered the two in each other's arms. The husband, acting more out of concern for Hendra's soul than out of anger, arranged for the teenager to spend several weeks under the tutelage of Father Joe at a Benedictine abbey in England. Expecting cruel treatment similar to that handed out by the monks in his Catholic elementary school, Hendra was surprised to meet instead a rotund, knobby-kneed confessor whose thoughtful, open manner changed Hendra's life forever. As Hendra reveals in this graceful, humorous tale, Father Joe acted not only as a confessor, but also as a friend and as the guiding spirit of Hendra's life (the author is now married with three children). Under the influence of Father Joe, Hendra passionately decided to follow the monastic life. At every turn, he met Father Joe's gentle insistence that he wasn't yet ready to enter the monastery. At Cambridge, Hendra discovered a new passion-comedy-and pursued it as ardently as he'd pursued religion. Hendra writes well (he spent several years as the head writer at National Lampoon), chronicling the failure of his first marriage, his descent into substance abuse, his self-hatred and his incessant search for meaning in compelling prose and with clear-eyed honesty. Throughout Hendra's life, Father Joe stands by his side, like a gentle shepherd leading a lost sheep back to a place where it can graze safely. Agent, Jonathan Lazear. (On sale May 18) Forecast: Although the book's titular character is a Benedictine monk, this memoir isn't necessarily bound for religion bookshelves. Advance praise from Frank McCourt and Hendra's reputation as a humorist should widen its appeal considerably. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-Hendra is probably best known as the original editor of Spy and National Lampoon. This is a loving memoir of his relationship with the priest who greatly influenced his life. At the age of 14, Tony's affair with an older woman was discovered by her husband. Concerned over the teen's moral upbringing, the man took him to Quarr, a Benedictine monastery on the Isle of Wight, where he met Father Joseph Warrilow. He returned to the monastery many times, hoping to join the order and bask in Father Joe's wisdom. Rather than encourage Hendra's misguided aspirations, the priest urged him to go to college. At Cambridge, the author joined an improvisation group and found his true calling. He married his pregnant girlfriend, moved to the U.S., and became a successful satirist, hobnobbing with the likes of John Cleese, Chevy Chase, and John Belushi. Periodically, he returned to Quarr for Father Joe's loving, nonjudgmental, and endearing advice. When his second marriage crumbled, the author went back to the monastery to fulfill the desire of his teenage years and at last become a monk. Father Joe once again steered him away from the spiritual life, and back to his family. This is a wonderful tribute to a truly holy man. Well written and compelling, this book is hard to put down. Readers will relate to Hendra's bad decisions and envy his relationship with Father Joe, whose quiet influence always seemed to make things right.-Pat Bender, The Shipley School, Bryn Mawr, PA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Tony Hendra has accomplished one hell of a lot in his life, and doubtless has many achievements ahead of him, but this memoir of his spiritual journey, and the monk who guided it, will almost certainly be his masterpiece."-Christopher Buckley "I picked up Father Joe intending to read just a couple of pages before bed--and found that I couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. The nature of a wise man, and the true nature of what wisdom feels like in action, is beautifully captured in Tony Hendra's portrait of Father Joe, who is one of the few convincing saints in recent writing. The book's last episode, when Hendra brings his son to meet Father Joe, brought unexpected tears to my weary eyes."-Adam Gopnik "Father Joe is a many-layered memoir of a god-driven Englishman, Tony Hendra. When I read passages to my wife and my voice began to give way she said, Keep going, keep going. I really didn't need much urging. I could easily have read the whole book in one sitting but it's too rich, too powerful, overwhelming. Even when he's describing his days of wine, roses and rock and roll Mr. Hendra gives himself no quarter. There are furious paragraphs where he echoes Hamlet's 'Why, what an ass am I.' But we know, from the subtitle, 'The Man Who Saved My Soul' that salvation is down the road. Father Joe waits for this wild, satirical, loving, poetic, lusty, blasphemous penitent. You might see some of yourself in Tony Hendra. If you see anything of yourself in Father Joe you are blessed. Like me you might cherish this book so much you'll keep it on the shelf beside St. Augustine, St. Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton, and when you dip into it you might hear Gregorian chant from the monks of Quarr."-Frank McCourt

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