The Long March Ahead

From the January 2013 Print Edition

I rarely talk politics, not because I have none, but because mine are too eccentric to appeal to anyone other than myself and a few equally peregrine souls, and because my pessimism regarding political institutions is often so bitterly bleak that it annoys even me. After the 2008 election, for . . . . Continue Reading »

God and the Mad Hatter

From the December 2012 Print Edition

Materialism, being a fairly coarse superstition, tends to render its adherents susceptible to a great many utterly fantastic notions. All that is needed to make even the most outlandish theory seem plausible to the truly doctrinaire materialist is that it come wrapped in the appurtenances of . . . . Continue Reading »

Therapeutic Superstition

From the November 2012 Print Edition

Some years ago, when I was nineteen and living in the north of England, I knew a middle-aged man named Reuben who claimed to be visited by angels, to receive visions and auditions from God, to see and converse with the spirits of nature, and to be able to intuit the spiritual complaints of nearly . . . . Continue Reading »

Brilliantly Bad Books

From the October 2012 Print Edition

Best to begin in medias res, says Horace, so let me start with two exemplary excerpts from the works of the inimitable Irish writer Amanda McKittrick Ros (1860–1939). The first opens the fourth chapter of her debut novel of 1897, Irene Iddesleigh: When on the eve of glory, whilst brooding over . . . . Continue Reading »

Through a Gloss, Darkly

From the Aug/Sept 2012 Print Edition

In French and English, the Latin verb traducere—“to transfer,” “to convert,” “to lead across,” but also “to expose to shame,” “to defame,” “to disgrace in public”—diverged into two very different derivatives, each reflecting only one aspect of the etymon. The principal . . . . Continue Reading »

Death the Stranger

From the June/July 2012 Print Edition

Damian Michael Bentley (1834-1897) was the first cousin of one of my great-grandfathers (if I were patient enough, I would work out what that makes my relation to him). He was also, as far as I can tell, the only confirmed metaphysical materialist dangling from any branch of my family tree. Then . . . . Continue Reading »

In Praise of Good Bad Books

From the May 2012 Print Edition

I had a fairly bookish childhood. I don’t mean that I was a sedentary youth; I spent a greater portion of my days out of doors than is normal for most children in our culture today, given our dread of strangers, our ignorance of our neighbors, and our bizarre belief that sports are things one . . . . Continue Reading »

The Inertia of Reputation

From the March 2012 Print Edition

I managed”aided by a combination of piteous entreaties, furious threats, and the occasional application of the lash”to drag my refractory attention span across the finish line of Umberto Eco’s The Prague Cemetery , but by that point I had already decided that it is a text whose . . . . Continue Reading »