Look, I think every issue we put out is great. Truly great. Documents for the ages that ought, were the world rightly ordered, to be inscribed in stone for ages to contemplate in awe. Or, maybe, strung across the nation on billboards in bite-size bits, like those old sequential Burma-Shave ads . Within this vale / of toil and sin / your head grows bald / but not your chin / Burma-Shave!, er, I mean, First Things!
But even a relentless jingoist¯jinglist?¯for the journal has to admit that some issues are not as strong as others. But this new issue isn’t one of them. Which is a roundabout way of saying that the March issue of First Things is as good, all the way through, as anything we’ve ever put out. You are subscribing , aren’t you?
The issue starts with the physicist Stephen Barr on quantum theory and the role that faith plays, one way or another, in the need to choose among the various interpretations of that theory. Steve has a gift for the explanatory metaphor and the telling detail that makes high scientific theory accessible to the non-scientist, and the way in which he introduces faith at the crucial moment is fascinating.
If that doesn’t grab you, how about Richard John Neuhaus on "Metaphysical America" ? It’s a walk through the history of the nation’s theosophists, gnostics, mystics, Swedenborgians, and hermetics¯the whole strange world of roll-your-own metaphysics that something deep in the American psyche seems to invite.
We’ve even got topical stuff, political concerns of the moment, as Michael Novak and I go back and forth on the question of George W. Bush’s presidency . (This is what the young people in our office call "the teaser," the article from the new issue available online even for non-subscribers.)
On and on, the issue goes, great piece after great piece. We’ve got the popular historian Philip Jenkins rediscovering the forgotten novels of Harry Sylvester . We’ve got the composer Michael Linton reviewing the new biography of Bach . We’ve got a new author, the Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol , explaining how state-imposed secularism created Turkey’s naked public square. We’ve even got John Rose, one of the fine junior fellows here at First Things , reviewing two books about his great intellectual love, Michael Polanyi .
Meanwhile, for those who just can’t get enough of our series on " Balthasar, Hell, and Heresy ," we’ve got Part 3: letters from readers and replies to those letters from Alyssa Lyra Pitstick and Edward Oakes.
As always, there’s this little thing called "The Public Square" stuck on the back of the magazine, by a writer named Richard John Neuhaus. Month after month, Fr. Neuhaus continues his extraordinary commentary on books, events, and people. This issue, he takes up Body Worlds and the open display of corpses that seems to have seized the art world. Oh, and he talks about Canada, and Terry Eagleton, and Mormonism, and much, much more.
On top of all this, there are reviews by Bryan Crockett and Peter J. Leithart , and¯perhaps my favorite series in First Things ¯ more of Rhina Espaillat’s translations of the poems of St. John of the Cross . Every poet to whom I speak agrees that major literary prizes await these translations when Rhina collects them into a book. But you can read them now as they appear in our pages.
Why don’t you subscribe¯to the print version or merely to online access ¯and enjoy the clean shave the magazine offers? Feel your face / As you ride by / Now don’t / You think / It’s time to try / First Things!