This week we put to bed the April issue of First Things, and it just might be our best one yet. In “American Carnage,” Christopher Caldwell reports on the unprecedented drug epidemic caused by opioids. He shows that the crisis is one of the legacies of Reaganism, whose politics of deregulation “wound up enlisting the American middle class in the project of its own dispossession.”
Gao Zhisheng, China's leading human rights lawyer, has been a political prisoner of the Chinese regime for ten years, suffering electrocution, beatings, and threats against his family. In “Struggle Against the Gods,” he recounts his ordeal, which led him to faith in Christ. He also insults his captors: “China’s ‘mighty army’ is powerless when it comes to confronting the supernatural. … [But] their ignorance spells their misfortune. Denial of the supernatural is a major reason why so many of my countrymen have become moral degenerates.”
In “Return to Form,” Martin Mosebach calls on Catholics to restore the traditional Latin Mass to the center of the Church's life. He describes the suppression of that form of the Mass as an act of tyranny and defends a certain bishop who defiantly upheld it. “The Roman Rite will be won back in hundreds of small chapels, in improvised circumstances throughout the whole world, celebrated by young priests with congregations that have many small children, or it will not be won back at all,” he says. The essay will certainly provoke and may persuade.
David Hart recommends twenty-five books you've never heard of in “From a Vanished Library.” Before he does, though, he pauses to praise one of my favorite writers: “I love Robert Louis Stevenson. I think there was no greater prose stylist in English in the nineteenth century, no better storyteller, and no better travel writer. It astonishes me that he has often been held in higher esteem by judicious foreigners (like Borges) than by British or American readers.”
And then there are the reviews. The moral majority has become a moral minority—but politics remains inescapable. So argues Patrick Deneen in a review of new books by Rod Dreher, Archbishop Charles Chaput, and Anthony Esolen. Matthew Walther toasts champagne socialism, Sohrab Ahmari prefers a good expat flick to all Iran's art films, Gary Saul Morson details Rasputin's lurid career, and Stephen Barr agrees with Chomsky.
There are other fine things in the issue to which subscribers can look forward—Mark Bauerlein's Back Page, Ted Gioia's essay on the faith of Duke Ellington—but I'm about to depart for a boar hunt, so I had better leave it there. Pray I don't end up like St. Emeric, and if you haven't yet, subscribe.
Matthew Schmitz is literary editor of First Things.