Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men
by anthony esolen
regnery, 204 pages, $29.99
No Apologies: Why Civilization Depends on the Strength of Men is the latest in a string of brilliant offerings from Anthony Esolen: Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, Nostalgia: Going Home in a Homeless World, and Sex and the Unreal City. Utilizing his impressive arsenal of literature, Scripture, and mythology, Esolen defends not only the virtues of masculinity—strength, drive, ambition, and determination to build and uphold civilization—but exults in the historic accomplishments of men and their role as protectors and defenders.
Esolen doesn’t deconstruct feminism—he demolishes it. He occasionally makes the eyeballs bulge (such as when he wonders whether doing away with household voting was the right move), and spends several chapters explaining why men are the physically stronger sex—not the sort of thing that used to be controversial. But fundamentally, Esolen advocates for a biblically rooted manhood that recognizes and embraces responsibility. Esolen defends men as men—as fathers, as builders, as defenders of women and children.
What men have become is another story. Online porn has allowed men to achieve a pathetic imitation of carnivorous sexual satisfaction without courting, supporting, or loving a real woman; video games have allowed them to play at accomplishing great feats without leaving their parents’ basements (and distracted them from actually doing that). Genuine masculine traits are written off as “toxic,” and men and boys increasingly fall behind—something that is celebrated by feminist writers. Without men, Esolen writes, civilization falls—because men built it in the first place. If they do not learn how to do so again, we are all in a world of trouble.
It is a book, he notes, that should not need to be written. It is a sign of the times that his statements of the obvious are so offensive.
—Jonathon Van Maren
Spending the Winter:
A Poetry Collection
by joseph bottum
st. augustines, 81 pages, $13
The Isle of Wight is in the middle of the English Channel, separated by the Solent strait from the rest of England. In 1853 Alfred Lord Tennyson purchased a vacation home on its western shore. But he eventually bought a third house and moved away because too many of his devoted fans were traveling there to see him. That was the status of a great poet in Victorian England.
Joseph Bottum was born in the wrong time and place. The former editor in chief of First Things has just published a collection of verse titled Spending The Winter. If Bottum’s lyrics don’t merit quite the adulation that Tennyson’s did, they are superior nonetheless: lovely and often profound.
An example of his unaffected charm can be found in the four-line poem “Bliss and Blunder”:
Worthless things and things of wonder
Are fish in a single lake—
For much of bliss is caught by blunder,
And joy by some mistake.
That’s Bottum at his most delightfully plain, reminding us of the faux naif lyrics of Robert Frost. Yet some of Bottum’s poems display intense intellectualism, too. Take “The Logician’s Lament,” which begins:
The premises we thought we knew:
All men are mortal. Love is, too.
But premises need not be true.
What’s striking in both of these poems and throughout the collection is his ability to be absolutely transparent in his meaning and remarkably graceful and beautiful at the same time. This is poetry at an exceptionally high level, verse dealing with the gorgeousness of nature and existential questions equally. Probably the author would be a celebrity—as Edna St. Vincent Millay, for instance, was—had he been born a century earlier. Regardless, lovers of verse should order a copy.