The Enemies, and Friends, of the Humanities

A funny thing happened when Michael Novak brought Herbert Marcuse to lecture to his students. It was the early-1970s when campus rebellion had entered its darker phase, and Marcuse was an idol of the Movement. His theory of “repressive tolerance” served as an essential touchstone for protest, and his volatile mix of Marx and Freud seemed an edgy, relevant style of intellectualized activism. Continue Reading »

Serious Summer Reading Recommendations

Spenser’s Faerie Queene and James’ Golden Bowl as summer reading? I can hear my wife groaning and commenting that these recommendations amount to the intellectual equivalent of my usual vacation plans, which often involve climbing remote mountains and going on hundred mile bike rides. Continue Reading »

David Foster Wallace to the Rescue

Let’s not speak of suicide. Let’s not encourage the cottage industry bent on reducing David Foster Wallace to a literary Kurt Cobain, a romance of self-demise. This is a significant temptation for any posthumous reading of Wallace, whose writing is populated by suicides and addicts and clients . . . . Continue Reading »

What Are the Best Books about Heaven?

Excepting of course, The Book. I ask this question jumping off of Paul’ comment in the thread below. I’ve always been a doubt-bedeviled Christian, and whereas when I was younger it was the multiple issues raised by predestination and hell that caused me the most concern, the older I get . . . . Continue Reading »

In Praise of Good Bad Books

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 »

Chesterton on Fairy Tales and Evil

G. K. Chesterton had a way with words. Some of my favorite quotes come from him, and that includes a quote about fairy tales. The quote is usually stated like this: “Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that . . . . Continue Reading »

Brokenness and Modern Poetry

Readers charged that Kathleen Graber's poetry was “slovenly” and “shapeless.” As the poetry editor of First Things, I thought I’d step in and open a wider discussion of poetry, particularly as it pertains to First Things Continue Reading »

Loving the Businessman

Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is sometimes an almost unbearably bad novel, but it keeps selling. I just finished rereading it trying to find what can be redeemed from it beyond the obvious fact that it opposes the evil of collectivism. I need more because it is easy to find a more concise and . . . . Continue Reading »

Dr. Thorndyke: A Man of His Times

The day a man reads his last new Sherlock Holmes mystery is a sad one. The stories decline in quality, but to the very last retain some echo of what made the early tales classics of the detective genre.The best Holmes can be reread, but still a man likes to have something new to read during his free . . . . Continue Reading »