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I’m perplexed by the sentence in bold.

Is the text talking about one book or two books(originally I thought he was talking about 4 different books because he didn’t add words like “the former is about a guy who..., and the latter is....”)?

Is this normal to introduce books without adding words that would help your readers know which book exactly you are referring to(or the reason why he didn’t add those words is because it’s clear enough to native speakers?)?

My teacher said the text referred only to one book(He said that Augustine is the author of the book,the Confession), not two, but I have reservation about what he said. Please explain this to me, thank you!

Whether you're a believer or not, I think these books are very helpful..It's amazing to read Augustine, the Confessions, and a guy who got successful as a rhetorician but felt hollow inside, a guy who had a mom, Monica, who was the helicopter mom to beat all helicopter moms and how he dealt with the conflict with such a demanding mother. And so I read a lot of theology, whether it's C.S. Lewis or Joseph Soloveitchik, a Rabbi. And it's produced a lot of religious upsurge in my heart, but it's also fragile and green that I don't really talk about it because I don't want to trample the fresh grass.

  • This is conversational, and not quite grammatical prose. "...and a guy". Makes me think you might have mistranscribed? – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 13 '17 at 1:42
  • I just checked. It’s the same version that my teacher gave me. – Jasmine Kuo Dec 13 '17 at 1:48
  • My American friend told me that this is how they speak, and that it’s perfectly normal, but I’ve never heard any one say it this way... – Jasmine Kuo Dec 13 '17 at 1:53
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    "and a guy" is not grammatical if "a guy" is apposite "Augustine" (as it is here). – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 13 '17 at 14:44
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Your quote is a misprint. The source is an NPR interview with author David Brooks:

On how writing and researching the book changed his religious life:

I'm a believer. I don't talk about my religious life in public in part because it's so shifting and green and vulnerable. And so I've spent a lot of time in this book — and if you care about morality and inner life and character, you spend your time reading a lot of theology because over the last hundreds of years it was theologians who were writing about this. Whether you're a believer or not, I think these books are very helpful. It's amazing to read [The Confessions of St. Augustine, about] a guy who got successful as a rhetorician but felt hollow inside; a guy who had a mom, Monica, who was the helicopter mom to beat all helicopter moms, and how he dealt with the conflict with such a demanding mother. And so I read a lot of theology — whether it's C.S. Lewis or Joseph Soloveitchik, a rabbi — and it's produced a lot of religious upsurge in my heart. But it's also fragile and green [and] I don't really talk about it because I don't want to trample the fresh grass.

The part in the square brackets is used to supply the name of the book to the reader, even though Brooks didn't actually say the name in this quote.

(Relevant: What is the proper use of square brackets in quotes?)

Brooks is saying the St. Augustine was a guy who had a successful career, felt hollow, had a helicopter mom, etc. and who wrote about it in his autobiography, "The Confessions of St. Augustine".

  • Thank you so much! Does this mean that the misprinted version is ungrammatical? – Jasmine Kuo Dec 13 '17 at 2:43
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    @JasmineKuo no, it's grammatical, but it's totally wrong. – Andrew Dec 13 '17 at 2:57
  • "It's amazing to read Augustine, the Confessions, and a guy..." is not grammatical. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 13 '17 at 12:36
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo which part? It doesn't sound weird to me to say "I'm reading a guy who wrote about ..." Of course it's missing an "about" or "a book by" but those are an implied ellipsis. Otherwise, if you didn't know, you could be forgiven assuming "Augustine" is the name of another book. It should be in quotes, of course. – Andrew Dec 13 '17 at 16:44
  • @Andrew, "a guy" is apposite "Augustine" – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 14 '17 at 12:28
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It appears to be a transcript of an interview with David Brooks, as provided by @Andrew. The transcript is here.

This speech is normal in the sense that speakers regularly make incoherent or imperfect statements when speaking spontaneously, as in an interview. I believe this is true in any language. I was also confused because I didn't know who Augustine was. So it also appeared to me to be possibly three or four books when I read it. If you know who Augustine was and that his book was called Confessions, and you know the context of the books, then it's clear that he's talking about one book. Otherwise, it could be interpreted as many books. "Augustine" could be one title, "Confessions" could be another. Then the sudden "and" makes it seem like he's describing the plot of a third, unrelated book.

Notice that in the copy provided by Andrew, there were brackets inserted, along with light editing, to make it clear.

It's amazing to read [The Confessions of St. Augustine, about] a guy who got successful as a rhetorician but felt hollow inside; a guy who had a mom, Monica, who was the helicopter mom to beat all helicopter moms, and how he dealt with the conflict with such a demanding mother.

This suggests to me that the editors also believed the speaker's words were confusing.

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    When I first saw the text, confused by it, I googled Augustine and found out that there was actually a book called Augustine.But now, after you guys explaining it to me, I understand it. Thank you very much Max! – Jasmine Kuo Dec 13 '17 at 2:57

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