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“Expansive and yet vacuous is the prose of Kahlil Gibran,” writes Alan Jacobs in the new issue of First Things .

And weary grows the mind doomed to read it. The hours of my penance lengthen, The penance established for me by the editor of this magazine, And those hours may be numbered as the sands of the desert. And for each of them Kahlil Gibran has prepared Another ornamental phrase, Another faux-biblical cadence, Another affirmation proverbial in its intent But alas! lacking the moral substance, The peasant shrewdness, of the true proverb.
O Book, O Collected Works of Kahlil Gibran , Published by Everyman’s Library on a dark day, I lift you from the Earth to which I recently flung you When my wrath grew too mighty for me, I lift you from the Earth, Noticing once more your annoying heft, And thanking God¯though such thanks are sinful¯ That Kahlil Gibran died in New York in 1931 At the age of forty-eight, So that he could write no more words, So that this Book would not be yet larger than it is.

Jacobs’ review of the newly published Collected Works of Kahlil Gibran ¯written in perfect imitation of Gibran’s own overwrought prose¯is just one of many delights in the November issue of First Things , now appearing on newsstands.

Or in your mailbox, if you happen to subscribe, which you ought to do. Where else are you going to find work like Jacobs’? Or like Richard John Neuhaus’ essay ” The Politics of Bioethics ,” which opens: “Is ‘human dignity’ a useful concept in bioethics? Does it shed important light on the whole range of bioethical issues? Or is it instead a useless concept¯a slogan that camouflages unconvincing arguments and unarticulated biases? The President’s Council on Bioethics recently asked me this question, and I replied: Useful or useless to what end?”

We’ve got so much in the new issue, from one famous author after another. How about Fr. Benedict Groeschel replying to his critics in the Letters section ? Or Harvard’s Mary Ann Glendon explaining Plato ‘s politics in the Articles section? “Plato was exceptionally unlucky in his attempts to take part in politics,” she begins, but without his disheartening experiences, “it is unlikely that Plato could have written The Laws , his last and most political dialogue.” Or PayPal founder and hedge-fund president Peter Thiel reviewing books on philanthropic foundations ? “’When you give alms,’ Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount,” Thiel notes, “’sound no trumpet before you.’ Good advice, but, one must note, it is also forbidden by law in the United States¯at least, for those who give alms through foundations.”

If that doesn’t grab you, how about ” Conscience and Authority “, a masterful essay from Gilbert Meilaender? Or the Weekly Standard ‘s editor, William Kristol, reviewing Ruth Wisse’s Jews and Power ? A book, he writes, that “captures the impressive, even amazing, character of the Zionist achievement in the real world. But that achievement is a work in progress. And while the existence of Israel should change¯must change¯the ways in which Jews think about their moral relation to power, old habits die hard. A new understanding that does justice both to the necessities of power and to the dictates of decency does not yet seem at hand.”

Besides Jacobs’ ” On the Recent Publication of Kahlil Gibran’s Collected Works ,” the Opinion section features Sally Thomas on the occasion of Madeleine L’Engle’s death . “The winter I was ten, my teacher read A Wrinkle in Time aloud to our class, a chapter a day,” Thomas writes. “It was, in my view, the sole reason for getting up and going to school.” Meanwhile, in ” Why Nigeria Matters ,” Darren Kew explains: “More than ten thousand Nigerians have lost their lives in communal unrest since 1999. One incident in Kaduna State alone claimed more than two thousand lives. And in the 2006 riots that erupted across the world over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, Nigeria had more of its citizens killed than did any other nation. If there is merit to the idea of a global clash of civilizations, Nigeria looks like the epicenter.”

If that’s not enough, there’s also a set of observations about the presidential election ¯this month’s free article, available to nonsubscribers. It begins with Nat Hentoff’s cry: “With dismemberment abortions still legal, public executions still going on, and quality-of-life criteria still being used to decide who should live, we ourselves are quite a distance from being fully civilized. Could reducing this distance¯building a true life-affirming civilization¯be a winning issue for any candidate in this ongoing presidential campaign?”

It then moves to John DiIulio’s discussion: “On questions of poverty and economics, the two best candidates¯at least so far in the 2008 presidential campaign¯have been Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee.”

And it concludes with my own account of the race so far: “This is a momentous time in American history: a day of great danger, an era of great purpose. And into the weighty moment, the presidential campaign of 2008 has called¯um, Ron Paul? John Edwards? Mitt Romney? Hillary Clinton? Let’s be honest and admit what we all know: The weakest set of candidates in living memory has taken the field, and we still have more than a year left of watching these people, lumbering and blumbering toward the goal line.”

The November issue of First Things also features new poems from two of the most important poets writing in the English language, Les Murray and Samuel Menashe , together with work from our own poetry editor, Paul Lake . We’ve got a sketch of the French philosopher Rémi Brague by Thomas Hibbs and brief reviews from the physicist Stephen Barr and the pro-life activist Wesley J. Smith. And we have, as always, the magazine’s most popular feature, Richard John Neuhaus’ column “The Public Square .”

If all that is not worth subscribing to, what is?

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