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'This book, by Columbia University's Professor of Sociology, Jonathan Rieder, sheds much humanistic light on the oratorical genius of Martin Luther King, but very little on the actual mechanics and thinking behind the oratory itself.  Admittedly, The Word Of The Lord Is Upon Me has not been marketed, nor sold as an account of King's life; but just a little more substantive background, would have proved helpful in understanding the sheer complexity and depth behind some of the man's literary performances.  Performances, which, lest we remind ourselves, may have been anchored in religiosity, but were at the sheer vanguard of idealism and (dare I say it), common sense.   

The latter of which, along with irony, remains as void within the American psyche, as its will to confront the The National Rifle Association.  And in the America of MLK, just as in todays' America of Barack Obama v. John McCain, never shall the twain of such qualities as idealism and common sense, ever see eye to eye - let alone meet.  

Writing in 'The Artistry of Argument,' Rieder declares:  ''King once described blackness as an interim state, a temporary adjustment to the nation's failure to implement the ideal of ''all God's children.''  But in a land where humanity is frowned upon - there have already been murmurs from potential assassins to the effect that should Obama actually reach the White House, his days will be numbered - there is no place for such ideological common sense as ''all God's children.''  As the author writes:  ''But no matter how appealing this vision of mankind may be, the idolatry of King has come at a cost: it has sifted out the unsettlement that King inflicted, and meant to inflict, on a nonchalant, often clueless nation.''

So whilst the apostle of peace remains much of an enigma throughout, there is much to celebrate throughout The Word Of The Lord Is Upon Me.  From the allure of ''The Lord will make a way out of no way,'' to the inflammability of ''(Jesus was) a gifted Jewish prophet with a lot of personal problems,'' to the philosophical ''It is better to go through life with a scarred up body than a scarred up soul,' this rather brilliant book is as equally altruistic towards MLK's speeches, sermons and storytelling, as the man himself was to America's broken society.

Perhaps certain sections ought to be made compulsive reading throughout American schools.  For then, and only then, will the so-called American Dream – as well as that of Martin Luther King's - stand any chance of becoming reality.

David Marx  
The Word of the lord is Upon Me –
The Righteous Performance of Martin Luther King
By Jonathan Rieder
Belknap Press of Harvard University Press –  £19.95
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