The Info List - Garry Wills

Garry Wills
Garry Wills
(born May 22, 1934) is an American author, journalist, and historian, specializing in American history, politics, and religion, especially the history of the Catholic Church. He won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1993. Wills has written nearly forty books and, since 1973, has been a frequent reviewer for The New York Review of Books.[1] He became a faculty member of the history department at Northwestern University
Northwestern University
in 1980, where he is currently an Emeritus Professor of History.


1 Early years 2 Personal life 3 Religion 4 Politics 5 Public appraisal 6 Honors 7 Works 8 References 9 Further reading 10 External links

Early years[edit] Wills was born on May 22, 1934, in Atlanta, Georgia.[2] His father, Jack Wills, was from a Protestant background, and his mother was from an Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic
family.[3] He grew up in Michigan and Wisconsin, graduating from Campion High School, a Jesuit institution, in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, in 1951. He entered and then left the Society of Jesus. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Louis University
Saint Louis University
in 1957 and a Master of Arts degree from Xavier University
Xavier University
in 1958, both in philosophy. William F. Buckley Jr.
William F. Buckley Jr.
hired him as a drama critic for National Review
National Review
magazine at the age of 23. He received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in classics from Yale University
Yale University
in 1961[4] and taught history at Johns Hopkins University
Johns Hopkins University
from 1962 to 1980. Personal life[edit] Wills has been married to Natalie Cavallo since 1959; she was the flight attendant on his first flight on an airplane.[5] They have three children: John, Garry, and Lydia.[4][6] A trained classicist, Wills is proficient in Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek
and Latin. His home in Evanston, Illinois, is "filled with books", with a converted bedroom dedicated to English literature, another containing Latin
literature and books on American political thought, one hallway full of books on economics and religion, "including four shelves on St. Augustine", and another with shelves of Greek literature
Greek literature
and philosophy.[4][7] Religion[edit] Wills describes himself as a Roman Catholic and, with the exception of a period of doubt during his seminary years, has been a Roman Catholic all his life.[8] He continues to attend Mass
at the Sheil Catholic Center in Northwestern University. He prays the rosary every day, and wrote a book about the devotion (The Rosary: Prayer Comes Around) in 2005.[9] Wills has also been a critic of many aspects of church history and church teaching since at least the early 1960s. He has been particularly critical of the doctrine of papal infallibility, the social teaching of the church regarding homosexuality, abortion, and contraception, and the Eucharist, and of the church's reaction to the sex abuse scandal.[10][11][12][13] In 1961, in a phone conversation with William F. Buckley
William F. Buckley
Jr., Wills coined the famous macaronic phrase Mater si, magistra no (literally "mother yes, teacher no").[8] The phrase, which was a response to the papal encyclical Mater et magistra and a reference to the then-current anti-Castro slogan "Cuba sí, Castro no", signifies a devotion to the faith and tradition of the church combined with a skeptical attitude towards ecclesiastical authority.[9] Wills published a full-length analysis of the contemporary Catholic Church, Bare Ruined Choirs, in 1972 and a full-scale criticism of the historical and contemporary church, Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit, in 2000. He followed up the latter with a sequel, Why I Am a Catholic (2002), as well as with the books What Jesus Meant (2006), What Paul Meant (2006), and What the Gospels Meant (2008). Politics[edit] Wills began his career as an early protégé of William F. Buckley
William F. Buckley
Jr. and was associated with conservatism. When he first became involved with National Review
National Review
he did not know if he was a conservative, calling himself a distributionist.[14] Later on, he was self-admittedly conservative, being regarded for a time as the "token conservative" for the National Catholic Reporter and even writing a book entitled Confessions of a Conservative.[9] However, during the 1960s and 1970s, driven by his coverage of both civil rights and the anti-Vietnam War movements, Wills became increasingly liberal. His biography of president Richard M. Nixon, Nixon Agonistes (1970) landed him on the master list of Nixon political opponents.[15] He supported Barack Obama
Barack Obama
in the 2008 Presidential Election, but declared two years later that Obama's presidency had been a "terrible disappointment". [16] In 1995, Wills wrote an article about the Second Amendment for The New York Review of Books. Originally entitled "Why We Have No Right to Bear Arms", that was not Wills's contention and he neither wrote the title nor approved it prior to the article's publication.[17] Instead, Wills argued that the Second Amendment does not justify private ownership of guns but rather refers to the right to keep and bear arms in a military context only. Furthermore, that military context does not entail the right to overthrow the government of the United States:

The Standard Model finds, squirrelled away in the Second Amendment, not only a private right to own guns for any purpose but a public right to oppose with arms the government of the United States. It grounds this claim in the right of insurrection, which clearly does exist whenever tyranny exists. Yet the right to overthrow the government is not given by government. It arises when government no longer has any authority. One cannot say one rebels by right of that nonexistent authority. Modern militias say the government itself instructs them to overthrow government – and wacky scholars endorse this view. They think the Constitution is so deranged a document that it brands as the greatest crime a war upon itself (in Article III: 'Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them...') and then instructs its citizens to take this up (in the Second Amendment). According to this doctrine, a well-regulated group is meant to overthrow its own regulator, and a soldier swearing to obey orders is disqualified from true militia virtue.[18]

Public appraisal[edit] The New York Times
The New York Times
literary critic John Leonard said in 1970 that Wills "reads like a combination of H. L. Mencken, John Locke
John Locke
and Albert Camus."[19] The Roman Catholic journalist John L. Allen Jr. considers Wills to be "perhaps the most distinguished Catholic intellectual in America over the last 50 years" (as of 2008).[9] Martin Gardner
Martin Gardner
in "The Strange Case of Garry Wills" states there is a "mystery and strangeness that hovers like a gray fog over everything Wills has written about his faith".[20] Honors[edit]

1978: Inventing America— National Book Critics Circle
National Book Critics Circle
Award for General Non-Fiction (co-winner, with Facts of Life by Maureen Howard)[21] 1979: Inventing America—Merle Curti Award 1982: Honorary degree of L.H.D. by the College of the Holy Cross 1992: Lincoln at Gettysburg— National Book Critics Circle
National Book Critics Circle
Award for Criticism 1993: Lincoln at Gettysburg—Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction[22] 1995: Honorary degree from Bates College 1998: National Medal for the Humanities[4] 2004: St. Louis Literary Award from the Saint Louis University
Saint Louis University
Library Associates[23][24] Gary Wills was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois
and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State’s highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois
in 2006 in the area of Communication and Education.[25]


Chesterton: Man and Mask, Doubleday, 1961. ISBN 978-0-385-50290-0 Animals of the Bible (1962) Politics and Catholic Freedom (1964) Roman Culture: Weapons and the Man (1966), ISBN 0-8076-0367-8 The Second Civil War: Arming for Armageddon (1968) Jack Ruby (1968), ISBN 0-306-80564-2 Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self-made Man (1970, 1979), ISBN 0-451-61750-9 Bare Ruined Choirs: Doubt, Prophecy, and Radical Religion (1972), ISBN 0-385-08970-8 Values Americans Live By (1973), ISBN 0-405-04166-7 Inventing America: Jefferson's Declaration of Independence (1978), ISBN 0-385-08976-7 Confessions of a Conservative (1979), ISBN 0-385-08977-5 At Button's (1979), ISBN 0-8362-6108-9 Explaining America: The Federalist (1981), ISBN 0-385-14689-2 The Kennedy Imprisonment: A Meditation on Power (1982), ISBN 0-316-94385-1 Lead Time: A Journalist's Education (1983), ISBN 0-385-17695-3 Cincinnatus: George Washington and the Enlightenment (1984), ISBN 0-385-17562-0 Reagan's America: Innocents at Home (1987), ISBN 0-385-18286-4 Under God: Religion and American Politics (1990), ISBN 0-671-65705-4 Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America (1992), ISBN 0-671-76956-1 Certain Trumpets: The Call of Leaders (1994), ISBN 0-671-65702-X Witches and Jesuits: Shakespeare's Macbeth (1995), ISBN 0-19-508879-4 John Wayne's America: The Politics of Celebrity (1997), ISBN 0-684-80823-4 Saint Augustine (1999), ISBN 0-670-88610-6 Saint Augustine's Childhood (2001), ISBN 0-670-03001-5 Saint Augustine's Memory (2002), ISBN 0-670-03127-5 Saint Augustine's Sin (2003), ISBN 0-670-03241-7 Saint Augustine's Conversion (2004), ISBN 0-670-03352-9 A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government (1999), ISBN 0-684-84489-3 Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit (2000), ISBN 0-385-49410-6 Venice: Lion City: The Religion of Empire (2001), ISBN 0-684-87190-4 Why I Am a Catholic (2002), ISBN 0-618-13429-8 Mr. Jefferson's University (2002), ISBN 0-7922-6531-9 James Madison (2002), ISBN 0-8050-6905-4 Negro President: Jefferson and the Slave Power (2003), ISBN 0-618-34398-9 Henry Adams and the Making of America (2005), ISBN 0-618-13430-1 The Rosary: Prayer Comes Round (2005), ISBN 0-670-03449-5 What Jesus Meant (2006), ISBN 0-670-03496-7 What Paul Meant (2006), ISBN 0-670-03793-1 Bush's Fringe Government (2006), ISBN 978-1590172100 Head and Heart: American Christianities (2007), ISBN 978-1-59420-146-2 What the Gospels Meant (2008), ISBN 0-670-01871-6 Bomb Power (2010), ISBN 978-1-59420-240-7 Outside Looking In: Adventures of an Observer (2010), ISBN 978-0-670-02214-4 Augustine's 'Confessions': A Biography (2011), ISBN 978-0691143576 Verdi's Shakespeare: Men of the Theater (2011), ISBN 978-0670023042 Rome and Rhetoric: Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (2011), ISBN 978-0300152180 Font of Life: Ambrose, Augustine, and the Mystery of Baptism (2012), ISBN 978-0199768516 Why Priests? (2013), ISBN 978-0670024872 The Future of the Catholic Church with Pope Francis (March 2015), ISBN 978-0525426967 What The Qur'an Meant and Why It Matters (2017), ISBN 978-1-101-98102-3


^ Author's page for Garry Wills
Garry Wills
at the New York Review of Books website ^ Library of America.Biography of Garry Wills
Garry Wills
Archived June 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.. ^ http://events.nytimes.com/2002/07/14/books/chapters/0714-1st-wills.html?pagewanted=4&_r=0 ^ a b c d "Winners of the 1998 National Medal for the Humanities". Deconstructing Performance: Garry Wills's Eye on History. National Endowment for the Humanities.  ^ According to William F. Buckley, as told on the Charlie Rose Show
Charlie Rose Show
on March 24, 2006 Archived June 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. ^ Witt, Linda (April 5, 1982). " Garry Wills
Garry Wills
Dismantles Camelot and Finds Some Prisoners Within – Jack, Bob and Ted Kennedy". People magazine.  ^ Hoover, Bob (February 21, 2010). "Non-fiction: "Bomb Power," by Garry Wills". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  ^ a b Garry Wills
Garry Wills
(2003). Why I Am a Catholic. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-618-38048-5.  ^ a b c d Allen, John L, Jr. (November 21, 2008). "'Poped out' Wills seeks broader horizons". National Catholic Reporter.  ^ Garry Wills
Garry Wills
(2000). Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit.  ^ Wills, Garry (November 4, 2007). "'Abortion isn't a religious issue'". Los Angeles Times.  ^ Wills, Garry (February 15, 2012). "'Contraception's Con Men'". New York Review of Books.  ^ Wills, Garry (August 15, 2002). "The Bishops at Bay". New York Review of Books.  ^ John B. Judis (1990). William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives. Simon & Schuster. p. 158. ISBN 0-671-69593-2. Wills ... did not know whether he was a conservative (he called himself a 'distributionist')  ^ The complete, annotated Nixon's Enemies List ^ Kurutz, Steven (October 20, 2010). "' Garry Wills
Garry Wills
on Obama 'Disappointment' and the Tea Party 'Zoo'". The Wall Street Journal.  ^ "'To Keep and Bear Arms: An Exchange'". New York Review of Books. November 16, 1995. 'I had no knowledge of the misleading cover title "Why We Have No Right to Bear Arms" before I read with dismay the printed issue. Of course the Amendment states a right that "we" do possess – but we possess it, as the Amendment itself says, in a "well-regulated militia."  ^ Wills, Garry (September 21, 1995). "'To Keep and Bear Arms'". New York Review of Books.  ^ Leonard, John (October 15, 1970). "Books of the Times: Mr. Nixon as the Last Liberal". Review of Nixon Agonistes. The New York Times.  ^ Gardner, Martin (2003). Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?. W.W. Norton. ISBN 0-393-05742-9.  ^ "National Book Critics Circle: awards". Bookcritics.org. Retrieved 2016-07-21.  ^ "Pulitzer Prize Winners: General Non-Fiction". pulitzer.org. Retrieved 2008-03-10.  ^ Website of Saint Louis Literary Award ^ Saint Louis University
Saint Louis University
Library Associates. "Author Garry Wills
Garry Wills
to Receive 2004 St. Louis Literary Award". Retrieved July 25, 2016.  ^ "Laureates by Year - The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 

Further reading[edit]

Perlstein, Rick, "The American Atom", Bookforum: Rick Perlstein talks to Garry Wills
Garry Wills
about "The Bomb". Delbanco, Andrew, "The Right-Wing Christians", New York Review of Books, Review of Wills's Head and Heart: American Christianities. New York Times, "Featured Author" page. New York Times, Index of articles about Garry Wills, (covers 1983 to 2008). Northwestern University, History Faculty of NW university Wills at San Francisco's Grace Cathedral, a live conversation with Dean Alan Jones (archived) Wills, Garry, October 13, 2007, Lecture at Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, D.C. to promote his book, Head and Heart. Works by or about Garry Wills
Garry Wills
in libraries ( WorldCat

External links[edit]

Appearances on C-SPAN

Booknotes interview with Wills on Under God: Religion and American Politics, December 30, 1990. In Depth interview with Wills, January 2, 2005

v t e

Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction
Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

Why Survive? Being Old in America by Robert Neil Butler
Robert Neil Butler
(1976) Beautiful Swimmers by William W. Warner (1977) The Dragons of Eden
The Dragons of Eden
by Carl Sagan
Carl Sagan
(1978) On Human Nature
On Human Nature
by Edward O. Wilson (1979) Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter (1980) Fin-de-siècle Vienna by Carl E. Schorske (1981) The Soul of a New Machine
The Soul of a New Machine
by Tracy Kidder
Tracy Kidder
(1982) Is There No Place on Earth for Me? by Susan Sheehan (1983) The Social Transformation of American Medicine by Paul Starr
Paul Starr
(1984) The Good War
The Good War
by Studs Terkel
Studs Terkel
(1985) Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families by J. Anthony Lukas / Move Your Shadow by Joseph Lelyveld (1986) Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land by David K. Shipler (1987) The Making of the Atomic Bomb
The Making of the Atomic Bomb
by Richard Rhodes
Richard Rhodes
(1988) A Bright Shining Lie
A Bright Shining Lie
by Neil Sheehan (1989) And Their Children After Them by Dale Maharidge and Michael Williamson (1990) The Ants by Bert Hölldobler
Bert Hölldobler
and Edward O. Wilson (1991) The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power by Daniel Yergin (1992) Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America by Garry Wills (1993) Lenin's Tomb: The Last Days of the Soviet Empire by David Remnick (1994) The Beak of the Finch: A Story Of Evolution In Our Time by Jonathan Weiner (1995) The Haunted Land: Facing Europe's Ghosts After Communism by Tina Rosenberg (1996) Ashes to Ashes: America's Hundred-Year Cigarette War, the Public Health, and the Unabashed Triumph of Philip Morris by Richard Kluger (1997) Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond (1998) Annals of the Former World
Annals of the Former World
by John McPhee
John McPhee
(1999) Embracing Defeat
Embracing Defeat
by John W. Dower (2000)

Complete list (1962–1975) (1976–2000) (2001–2025)

Authority control

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