Saith the Prescriptivist, There is nothing new transpired under the sun

From Web Exclusives

Not to rouse bad memories, but you may recall that my last column contained a list of complaints regarding the misuse of certain words. You may also remember other things about it: Cuchulain battling the sea, mention of “psychotic episodes,” uncongenial dictionaries described as “scented and brilliantined degenerates” … Or perhaps my assertions that grammatical laxity leads to cannibalism … Continue Reading »

Le Mot Juste

From Web Exclusives

It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is only a short road that leads from grammatical laxity to cannibalism. At least, it should be universally acknowledged. Human beings are linguistic beings through and through, after all. Because of our miraculous, almost certainly extra-natural capacity for symbolic communication”uttered, written, or mimed”we are the only terrestrial species that possesses a history… . . Continue Reading »

Seven Characters in Search of a Nihil Obstat

From Web Exclusives

The muses are gaily capricious in the favors they bestow upon us, but humorlessly imperious in the demands they make of us. One never knows when inspiration may strike; one knows only that, when it comes, it must not be resisted. In my case, the occasion was an idle afternoon this past week, as I was irascibly considering the reaction of a few conservative Catholic critics to Terrence Malick’s strange, beautiful, perhaps slightly mad, and deeply Christian film The Tree of Life… . Continue Reading »

A Splendid Wickedness

From the Aug/Sept 2011 Print Edition

The literature of Spain’s “Golden Age” produced two figures—Don Quixote de La Mancha and Don Juan Tenorio—who quickly escaped the confines of the works that gave them birth and took up exalted but previously unoccupied stations in the Western imagination. Each soon became as much an . . . . Continue Reading »

Great Uncle Aloysius

From Web Exclusives

In one of my columns last January, I mentioned that there had been no practicing pagans in my family since the death of my great uncle Aloysius Bentley (1895-1987), who liked to welcome in the New Year by sacrificing a goat or a pair of woodcocks to Janus and Dionysus on the small marble altar he kept in his garden (carved for him by a sculptor who specialized in funerary monuments)… . Continue Reading »

Patrick Leigh Fermor, RIP

From Web Exclusives

I had other intentions for this column, and I am entirely unprepared for the change in direction I have elected to take. I have just moved houses, I have to catch a plane, and I scarcely have time to compose my thoughts. So I write in perilous haste. But I have no choice, at least emotionally speaking. What has made my well-laid plans gang so suddenly aglae is my discovery this morning (15 June) that my favorite living writer is, in fact, no longer living… . Continue Reading »

The Desire of the Nations

From Web Exclusives

Apuleius’s Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) has been prized down the centuries chiefly as a whimsical, slightly grotesque, and occasionally ribald burlesque, but it is also perhaps the single most illuminating text we possess in regard to the spiritual disquietudes and aspirations of the late antique world. In fact, when one reaches its final chapters, one discovers that below the ludicrous surface of the tale lies a strangely moving religious allegory … Continue Reading »

Farewell to a Mountain

From Web Exclusives

For two years, we have lived in a forest on the convergent lower slopes of two mountain ranges, and above a shallow wooded ravine that descends to a narrow streambed on our side and rises up on the opposite side towards the high ridge that looms above our treetops to the west. During our time here, that mountain has been a commanding and magnificent presence for us … Continue Reading »

A Person You Flee At Parties

From Web Exclusives

Forgive me for simply laying out a sequence of random thoughts (on a single theme) that occurred to me a few hours ago, as I was swimming around in my morning cistern of coffee; but it seems to be all I’m fit for just at the moment. I remembered this morning that, a few weeks ago, I happened to mention here that I thought Max Beerbohm’s “Enoch Soames,” from his collection Seven Men, to be maybe the most amusing short story in English… . Continue Reading »

The Trouble with Ayn Rand

From the May 2011 Print Edition

It is one of the most indelibly memorable scenes, and certainly the best twist ending, to have come out of the cinema of the 1960s: Charlton Heston riding his horse along the beach, Linda Harrison mounted behind him with her arms wrapped around his waist, both quite fetching in their late . . . . Continue Reading »