The Iron Law of Shortsightedness

Climate activists argue that the effects of climate change are too immense to be remedied by individual actions, no matter how heroic. The Indian novelist Amitav Ghosh agrees. His engaging new book The Great Derangement warns against framing climate change as a “moral issue.” Not only . . . . Continue Reading »

The Necessity of Judgment

Montaigne: A Lifeby philippe desantranslated by steven rendall and lisa nealprinceton, 832 pages, $39.95 When faced with a biography that could as well stop a door as fill a shelf, one’s first question is always, “Does the subject merit this exhaustive treatment?” There are a few historical . . . . Continue Reading »

Waugh on the Merits

Evelyn Waugh: A Life Revisitedby philip eadehenry holt, 432 pages, $32 Arthur Evelyn St. John Waugh was born in 1903 to upper-middle-class Anglicans who lived in a suburb of London. He attended a boarding secondary school (Lancing College), read history at Oxford, published his first book (a . . . . Continue Reading »

In Praise of Borders

Borders are a substitute used by less fortunate lands for the sea and the mountains behind which happier countries shelter. No great civilization has grown and endured except behind the shield of ocean, mountain, or desert. How different Poland’s history would be if it had a few dozen miles of . . . . Continue Reading »

The Splendor of Truth in 2017

There are times when we must sink to the bottom of our misery to understand truth, just as we must descend to the bottom of a well to see the stars in broad daylight.” Those are strong words, written by the Czech activist Václav Havel in his essay “The Power of the Powerless,” one of the . . . . Continue Reading »

Catholic America

Continental Ambitions:  Roman Catholics in North America  by kevin starr ignatius, 675 pages, $34.95 In The Good Shepherd, the 2006 spy film, mobster Joseph Palmi asks CIA agent (and stereotypical WASP) Edward Wilson an insolent question: “We Italians, we got our families . . . . Continue Reading »

Briefly Noted

On the Road to Vatican II: German Catholic Enlightenment and Reform of the Churchby ulrich l. lehnerfortress, 414 pages, $49 On the Road to Vatican II focuses on German and ­Austrian theological debates in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as examples of the Catholic Enlightenment. Historians . . . . Continue Reading »

Back to Work

In 1974, the year I turned nineteen, I took my first real job in the goods store of a railway station in County Mayo, in the west of Ireland. I was pleased to be off my parents’ hands, but uneasy in my position. The tiny goods office was an anthill of activity, with a constant flow of locomotive . . . . Continue Reading »