Black Battle, White Knight: The Authorized Biography of Malcolm Boyd

Article excerpt

Black Battle, White Knight: The Authorized Biography of Malcolm Boyd By Michael Battle. (New York: Church Publishing [Seabury], 2011, Pp. 239. $30.00.)

This unusual biography is a collaboration between its subject, the iconic Malcolm Boyd, and the author, Michael Baule, priest and theologian. Boyd is Batde's spiritual director, and he provided much direction to the organizing of this book, as unedited emails from him to Battle suggest. Batde writes as a theologian, using the imagery of the four horses in the book of Revelation, each of which reveals aspects of Boyd's life and character. As the title hints, it is both about Boyd and the author. But Batde still makes the major focus on Boyd, and there is much revealed of him beyond being the author of his classic work, Are You Running With Me, Jesus (1965), which led to his "career" as a performer in San Francisco and beyond.

Battle notes the contrast between himself and Boyd. "I am a younger, black, heterosexual writer describing the converse of myself" (45). The context he provides is often thought provoking, and makes this book, as Battle himself notes, a "historical, original and significant biography" (55). "The book is about US," says Boyd in one of his emails, meaning himself and the audior (17). Battle offers many timely insights such as his comparison of white America in the civil rights era of the 1960s with that of white America in the age of "illegal immigrants" now. Racism and xenophobia the hard. Other sections deal with famous people Boyd knew, and they are certainly fascinating, and too numerous to mention here.

While Batde insinuates himself into the biography (with Boyd's encouragement) , some of the most interesting parts of the book emerge when Batde allows Boyd to speak in his own voice. They show Boyd's urgent desire to get the book published (Boyd now at age eighty-eight may have been motivated by the march of time) , and give an important honesty to the telling. …