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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 »

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 »

The Needle’s Eye

From the February 2012 Print Edition

An old textual conundrum regarding the New Testament, frequently revisited by those who fret over every jot and tittle, is whether Christ was really talking about a camel or only about a very thick rope. My money is on the camel, and not only because I am fond of both camels and outlandish . . . . Continue Reading »

The Precious Steven Pinker

From the January 2012 Print Edition

I sometimes find it hard to believe that Steven Pinker really believes what he believes; surely, I think, some occult agency in his mind is forcing his conscious intellect to accept premises and conclusions that it ought to reject as utterly fantastic. I suppose, though, that that is one’s normal . . . . Continue Reading »