Atticus Finch in a Skirt

Harper Lee, now age eighty-eight and long out of the public eye, is the legendarily mysterious author of the iconic 1961 novel of southern racial injustice, To Kill a Mockingbird. It inspired an equally beloved film with Gregory Peck as heroic small town lawyer Atticus Finch, who defends an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman. Continue Reading »

Stewardship of the Reader's Eyes

The central paradox of censorship, according to the historian Paul S. Boyer, is that however sane and fair-minded your set of standards might be, the people who end up doing the censoring will always be the last ones you’d trust with the responsibility. Considered in the abstract, Boyer’s rule makes sense. Continue Reading »

No Fear Mysticism

Walk into any Barnes & Noble and it won’t be long before you’re confronted with rows and rows—and rows—of self-help books, all different and yet all the same. They’ll usually have covers with a blown-up torso-up shot of their respective authors, arms crossed, sporting an immensely self-satisfied pearly white grin, or at the very least a knowing, penetrating look. They’ll almost certainly have titles which include colons, such as–and I’m now culling from a random selection of books that have been published within the past few months–“Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message,” “Goals Suck: Why the Obsession with Goal-Setting is a Flawed Approach to Productivity and Life in General” (note that this author is making a valiant effort to be different), “Overworked and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative,” and on and on. There are also often numbers involved, because steps are comforting. Joel Osteen is the king of these—“Your Best Life Now Study Guide: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” “Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day,” etc. Even “Religion” and “Theology” sections of bookstores seem to have been encroached upon by this insidious book breed, so much so that I’ve often seen about one hundred titles like, “Sow and Grow: Planting God’s Word and Manifesting a Breakthrough” and only two or three of the spiritual classics a la Thomas a Kempis’s “The Imitation of Christ” or Augustine’s “Confessions”—and those tucked hastily into a corner. Continue Reading »

MOOCs, Books, Kooks and Federalist 10

Coursera woos me to MOOC through my college email.  I haven’t succumbed yet, but only because they haven’t offered anything interesting enough.  I signed up for one course on logic, but backed out after clarification over the goal of the course which was to prove through logic . . . . Continue Reading »

No, Please, Anything but God.

Andrew Ferguson informs and amuses at The Weekly Standard about that other orthodoxy in, “The Heretic: Who is Thomas Nagel and why are so many of his fellow academics condemning him?” It is longish, but I liked it and for possibly unnatural reasons, thought some of you might like it, . . . . Continue Reading »

Against Great Books

For many years, traditionalist thinkers have promoted the teaching of a set of core texts—the “great books”—as a vital element of a liberal arts education during a time when demands for multiculturalism led to the dismantling of a number of traditional programs of study. In more . . . . Continue Reading »

Brilliantly Bad Books

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 »

We’re Not Listening — Lilla and Levin

I read two articles yesterday about how little the Left and Right listen to each other.  One is thoughtful, by Yuval Levin in The Weekly Standard , ” The Real Debate “, Each party is pulled into this debate by what it sees as the deeply misguided views of the other. Democrats . . . . Continue Reading »