for Those Who Wish to Conserve a Humane Tradition
Clearly, a comprehensive list of worthy books in any of the categories below would be virtually impossible to squeeze into so small a space as we have, and would also take years for our tiny staff to annotate and link. We emphasize, therefore, that the following have been included for one of three specific reasons: a) they are too often overlooked in other canonical musters, b) they are mentioned in the pages of our journal Praesidium, or c) someone among our board members and contributors has urged their citation. A general principle arising indirectly from these motive forces is that the latest trends have been avoided in favor of what we regard as enduring merit. A comprehensive list of books was prepared by an informative speech writer. Enjoy reading.
A word of further explanation: phrases like "cultural conservative" and "mere Christianity" resonate differently in different ears. We have striven to abstain from listing narrowly political books (e.g., criticism of a certain candidate involved in a certain campaign) and--in the Religion section-- arcane adaptations of biblical verses to hermetic doctrine. We pass no blanket judgment upon such works; but our occasional employment of the word "conservative" is philosophically, not politically, indexed to the conserving of the Western humane tradition, and our interest in Christianity is as the culmination, not the antithesis, of that tradition.
Most books can be purchased by clicking onto a provided link, which will transport you straight to the appropriate page at www.amazon.com or elsewhere.
For quick links to buy classics of the Western tradition printed in their original language (French, German, Greek, Latin, Italian, and Spanish), go to Books in Foreign Languages.
Literary criticism, especially these days, can be appalling literature. Tortured by obscurantist theory and larded with jargon, it seems uniquely designed to repel attempts at comprehension. Yet literature is the soul of the Western tradition's cultural heritage: no cultural conservative should seek to live without it. We offer the following books, therefore, in the confidence that their love of great writing and their specific success at communicating will show through.
Helen R. Andretta. Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde: A Poet's Response to Ockhamism (in print; published 1997)
A readable study of intertwining literary, historical, and philosophical issues--the sort of thing that once attracted bright people to English departments before our counter-cultural dogs of war slipped their leash.
Harley Granville Barker. Prefaces to Shakespeare (out of print, used copies
available; first published 1953?)
Nobody could write about Shakespeare like Granville Barker, himself an actor-playwright. Many of his analyses of individual plays are still in print and widely available.
Jacques Barzun. From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life (in print, published 2000)
A mammoth undertaking whose wealth of detail about authors, artists, and thinkers is captivating even when its broad thesis slips out of focus; intelligent and free of jargon.
Mark Bauerlein. Literary Criticism: An Autopsy (in print; published 1997)
Professor Bauerlein is clearly one of the great esprits fins of our time. His surgically precise glossary dissects such obscurantist gobbledygook as "problematize", "interdisciplinary", and the incorrigible critical affection for titles with gerunds ("-ing" nouns).
Myles Dillon. Early Irish Literature (in print; published 1997)
A reprint of the 1948 edition, Dillon's book remains the best concise introduction to the subject of the Irish Gaelic tradition before the Normans.
John Ellis. Literature Lost: Social Agendas and the Corruption of the
Humanities (in print; published 1999)
-----. Against Deconstruction (in print; published 1990)
Professor Ellis, long a major figure in the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, knows inside-out from first-hand experience how successfully shallow but jargon-cloaked propaganda and careerism have mutilated and suppressed the Western tradition.
Ruth Finnegan. Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance, and Social Context (in print; published1992)
Versed especially in African traditions, Professor Finnegan has for years resisted the rush toward simplistic distinctions between oral and written narrative. Time and more careful study increasingly validate her insistence that the two can and do coexist in a vast gray area with few fixed limits.
Northrop Frye. The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (in print; published 1983)
The late Professor Frye, Aristotelian par excellence and one of the twentieth century's greatest literary critics, is at his best in this study of biblical typology.
Kathryn J. Gutzwiller. Theocritus' Pastoral Analogies (out of print; a few copies still available)
Many fields in literature of the past are quite arcane. If the curious pastoral idylls of the ancient Greek Theocritus (imitated by Virgil, among others) are of interest to you for some reason, however, Gutzwiller's rare book is most certainly the place to seek out a scholarly assessment.
John R. Harris. Chaos, Cosmos, and Saint-Exupéry's Pilot-Hero: A Study in Mythopoeia (in print; published 1999) hardcover paperback
Summarized by one commentator as a "mystic without faith", Saint-Exupéry has never been easy to pigeon-hole. This readable study plausibly treats his works as successive attempts to wrest faith from the arch-cycle of life's essential moments
Josephine Hendin. Vulnerable People: A View of American Fiction Since 1945 (out of print, used copies available; published 1978)
This one comes highly recommended to all who regard the accelerating mud slide of Western manners and morals as something less than liberating... but you will have to be content with a used copy.
Eileen Julien. African Novels and the Problem of Orality (in print but out of stock; published 1992)
Professor Julien's splendidly sensible thesis that African women have fared better under Western than traditional values won her the enmity of an ideology ridden academic establishment.
----- (ed., with Robert Alter). The Literary Guide to the Bible (in print; published
John Matthews, ed. The Bardic Source Book (in print: published 1998)
Matthews has assembled matter as diverse as translations of medieval Irish and Welsh texts, lectures of legendary scholars like Osborn Bergin, and essays by contemporary Celtic scholars like himself.
Joseph F. Nagy. Conversing With Angels and Ancients: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland (in print; published 1997) hardcover paperback
Nagy (whose Wisdom of the Outlaw, though out of print, is well worth tracking down) is one of those rarest of scholars who is able to speculate generally about traditions while still being immersed in textual and historical detail.
Carl Rapp. Fleeing the Universal: The Critique of Post-Rational Criticism (in print; published 1998)
The academy is beginning to fight back against the forces of helter-skelter within it. Though this book is probably too dense in ideas for professorial Vandals to feel its barbs, the rest of us can at least enjoy a certain squaring of the record.
James M. Redfield. Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The Tragedy of Hector (in print; republished 1986)
Redfield catches the essential irony of the Iliad far better than deconstructive gobbledygook could ever have done: Achilles is the best of the Achaians, yet his very ferocity in battle renders him an enemy to human culture.
Alain Renoir. A Key to Old Poems: The Oral-Formulaic Approach to the Interpretation of West-Germanic Verse (out of print, available used: published 1988)
Despite the unwieldy title, this work is extremely readable and will be useful, not just to specialists, but to anyone with any interest whatever in medieval or traditional literature.
Tobin Siebers. Morals and Stories (in print; published in 1992)
No literary scholar with any regard for the Western heritage or for the obvious tendency of stories to projects values should pass over this eloquent book.
Raymond Tallis. Enemies of Hope: A Critique of Contemporary Pessimism (in print; published 1997)
-----. In Defence of Realism (in print; republished 1998)
-----. Theorrhoea and After (in print; published 1998)
Dr. Tallis, a highly esteemed medical mind, came to literary studies for God-knows-what reason--perhaps fascinated by mysterious and deadly pathologies. Though his English empiricism and workaday common sense sometimes leave the idealist tradition shortchanged, the fits into which he sends ivory-tower theorists are incurably joyful to behold.
Peter DeSa Wiggins. Donne, Castiglione and the Poetry of Courtliness (in print; published 2001)
-----.Figures in Ariosto's Tapestry: Character and Design in the Orlando Furioso (out of print, used copies available; published 1986)
Few can imagine reading Ariosto today--all the more reason to possess Wiggins, who recognizes in the Furioso a degree of wry wit and finesse of characterization which leave Don Quixote a distant second. We honestly haven't read The Poetry of Courtliness (yet); but if it's by Peter Wiggins, it must be intelligent, insightful, and a joy to read.
R.V. Young. At War with the Word: Literary Theory and Liberal Education (in print; published 1999)
Professor Young, whose activity on behalf of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute has drawn supercilious sniffs from the academy's chic set, shows here in his dedication to the New Criticism that a zeal for truth and a respect for mystery are infinitely more enlightening than deconstructive parlor games.
More than two centuries ago, in his Critique of Judgment, Immanual Kant wrote that solid moral training is a "propaedeutic" (or preparation) for good taste. If he was right--if our sense of order and harmony is developed by our sense of rigid moral principles presiding over our daily movements-- then art today is in big trouble!
This section is still very much under construction, its objective made no more accessible, of course, by the hostility of many contemporary "artists" to the humane tradition of letters. For classical Greek and Roman authors, we refer you to our "foreign language" page: all of the Loeb Classical Library features English translations alongside the originals. In most cases, we have listed the Loebs on this foreign language page... er, scusateci, non-Anglophone page.
Dante Alighieri. John D. Sinclair's edition/translation of The Divine Comedy.
Inferno Purgatorio Paradiso
Sinclair's classic handling of these classic texts features original Italian on the left and English translation (with emphasis on literal meaning) facing on the right. Sinclair also includes ample footnotes and very thorough discussions of medieval context after each canto. Indispensable to any serious student of literature's library!
Lodovico Ariosto. Orlando Furioso (in print; published 1963)
Ariosto's Orlando was one of the best loved and most read works of the Renaissance, but now few recognize the title, even among "scholars". Yet the dizzily interlaced adventures of this epic-romance's "heroes" are often uproariously funny. Motivated by lust, greed, and vanity, this bombastic crew of stalwarts pursues self-interest under the guise of fighting for God and country... except, perhaps, for Orlando, whose infatuation with the lovely fluff-head Angelica turns him madly against every rational objective conceivable.
Scott Cairns. Recovered Body in print; published 1998)
Cairns is a poet who lives in Georgia and is widely celebrated for his religious verse. In these times when "religion" is an offensive word to many academics, it bears stressing that even the ivory tower applauds the quality of his work.
Karel Capek. Nine Fairy Tales: And One More Thrown in for Good Measure (in print: trans. Dagmar Herrman)
-----. Apocryphal Tales (in print: trans. Norma Comrada)
-----. Tales from Two Pockets (in print: trans. Norma Comrada et al.)
Czech journalist and raconteur Karel Capek is the kind of delightful surprise for which one keeps reading. Few of us here had heard of him, yet his early twentieth-century fairy tales (involving such incidents as a postman who happens upon elves sorting the mail by its degree of sincerity) will compel frequent revisiting. No doubt, his anti-ideological playfulness does not fit well into the new anti-canonical canons being pounded home at our universities.
Louise Erdrich. The Antelope Wife The Beat Queen Love Medicine The Bingo Palace
Erdrich is a female and also part Ojibway (Native American)--two reasons why the politically correct should automatically adore everything she writes. She also happens to be one of America's finest living authors, however. The four novels listed above are earlier works: her opus continues to grow.
E.W. Hornung. The Complete Shirt Stories of Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman (in print; published 1984)
Brother-in-law of Conan-Doyle, Hornung created in Raffles a public-school dandy whose second-story roguery projected Sherlock Holmes's genius onto the wrong side of the law. There is more than a little of the Victorian fascination with Jekyll-and-Hyde duplicity distilled into this cryptic kleptomaniac.
Franz Kafka. The Complete Stories (in print; published 1995)
Editions of Kafka tend to pass out of print over night, but this one is still going. We also strongly recommend for the scholarly the dual-language (English/German) volume, Best Short Stories: Die Schönsten Erzählungen.
Rudyard Kipling. All books below in print except The Light That Failed.
What would a traditionalist book collection be without Kipling? One of the finest story- tellers of a Victorian England which bristled with literary talent, Kipling has actually aged quite well in the view of those who understand human nature and whose sentiments are not pinned to their sleeve. We have created links to fine editions of Captains Courageous, Collected Stories, The Complete Stalky and Co., Kim, The Jungle Book, Just-So Stories, and The Light That Failed.
Rudyard Kipling enjoys the dubious distinction of being perhaps the first literary victim of PC fascism. Long before the barbarismos "political correctness" ever took shape in someone's nightmare, Kipling was being pilloried (in the late 60s and early 70s) for having written the line, "Take up the White Man's burden," in one of his stale Victorian ballads. A great poet he was not: but his detractors reached their judgment entirely on the basis of this single verse pulled out of context. In context, of course, it reflects the sincere, even passionate concern of a Westerner for a people whom he had grown to love and who were decimated yearly by plague and famine.
Tom Lea. The Wonderful Country The Brave Bulls The Hands of Cantú
Tom Lea was never a darling of the literati, but his taut novels based in the past of the Southwest and Mexico are in no pejorative sense popular. This under-appreciated talent was also a superlative sketch-artist and painter. Many editions of his written work feature his own illustrations.
Alessandro Manzoni. The Betrothed--I Promessi Sposi (in print; published 1984)
I Promessi Sposi was one of the first great historical novels. Concerned with the events of the Thirty Years' War--especially a dreadful outbreak of bubonic plague--it nevertheless focuses on a few simple people caught within events and ushered safely through them by religious faith.
François Mauriac. Thérèse (in print; this translation republished 1995)
-----. A Mauriac Reader (in print; published 1968)
French novelist François Mauriac won a Nobel Prize in 1952. His Thérèse Desqueyroux and La Fin de la Nuit, the most famous of his works (both about a desperate woman who ruins her life so thoroughly that she can no longer fight against salvation), are compacted into the first translation we have listed. The Reader offers a much more generous sampling.
Walter McDonald. All Occasions (in print; published in 2000)
-----. Count Survivors (in print; published in 1995)
Walter McDonald may well be the preeminent poet of faith to emerge from the chaos of the Vietnam "conflict" His work is straight and genuine, not artificial and academic. These are but two of his more recent collections.
Flann O'Brian. The Dalkey Archive (in print; republished in 1997)
-----. The Poor Mouth: A Bad Story About the Hard Life (in print: republished in 1996)
-----. The Third Policeman (in print; republished in 1999)
Flann O'Brian was the pen name of Brian O'Nolan, whose At Swim-Two-Birds has long enjoyed a certain academic following for its "metafictional" properties. These other three are no less burlesque, however, and all are well beyond the reach of the academic sense of humor (if such a thing exists). Beware of an antipathy toward The Poor Mouth, by the way: in its original Gaelic version (An Béal Bocht), it was a straight parody of West Country sob stories, and the nationalist ideologues have never really forgiven O'Brian for writing it.
Patrick O'Brian. Master and Commander (in print; published 1990). This is the first of the Aubrey/Maturin series: if you like it, save up and buy the following item.
-----. Aubrey/Maturin Series: 20-Volume Complete Cloth Set
O'Brian needs no introduction. Were the Nobel Prize not politically indexed, he would have had one in his trophy case long before his recent death. Enough to say that American publishers wouldn't touch him for years because his sea yarns are so free of clichés and so deep in characterization. We recommend the complete 20-volume hardback set: Captain Aubrey and Mr. Maturin, his scientific sidekick, will make you wonder how you ever found so much pleasure in Horatio Hornblower. And if you really find yourself swept up in a literary gale, you might want Harbors and High Seas : An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Complete Aubrey-Maturin Novels of Patrick O'Brian.
Flannery O'Connor. The Complete Stories (in print; published 1996)
No other American author of the latter twentieth century comes close to O'Connor in daring, imagination, or depth of conviction. Raised a Catholic in rural Georgia and devoted to Christian orthodoxy despite having been embraced by the Ivory Tower, she will ever remain a delightful and instructive anomaly to the prevailing trends of her day.
Criostoir O'Flynn. Blind Raftery (in print; published 1998)
O'Flynn selects, translates (facing original Gaelic text), and copiously annotates these verses of nineteenth-century fiddler-poet Antoine Raifteiri. Beginning Irish-learners will be pleased to know that Raftery was a man of the people, not a medieval court poet, and hence used delightfully simple language.
-----. There Is an Isle: A Limerick Boyhood (in print; published 1998).
Not really fiction at all... but recent autobiography by Irishmen like Frank McCort has become so sordid and malodorous that O'Flynn's retrospective seems an idyll. The pseudo- intellectual snobs at Kirkus Reviews express some concern for O'Flynn's pro-Catholic sentiments, his affection for yesteryear, and his refusal to pillory the British. How much more of an endorsement do you need?
Ben Okri. Astonishing the Gods (in print; published 1999)
-----. Songs of Enchantment (in print; published 1994)
-----. The Famished Road (in print; published 1993)
On a scene currently dominated by propagandistic "advocacy" fiction and frivolous postmodern fantasies, Nigerian novelist Ben Okri's "magic realism" is strangely sane and tasteful. That is, despite its luxuriously wild appearance, its spirituality is genuine, direct, and anchored.
Abbé Prévost. Manon Lescaut (in print; published 2002)
This eighteenth-century morality tale of a young aristocrat who "throws his life away" for a beautiful woman of very dubious morals anticipates Romanticism in many ways. Decide for yourself if, despite Manon's obviously weak and faithless character, the young Chevalier would have been better advised to fulfill a rather suffocating set of parental and social expectations.
Alexander Pushkin. The Captain's Daughter and Other Stories (in print; published 1957)
Pushkin is most beloved as Russia's greatest Romantic poet--but his brief novel, The Captain's Daughter, is a fascinating contribution to the nineteenth century's catalogue of lovable protagonist/criminal antagonist pairs (e.g., Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).
Jules Romains. Verdun (in print; published 2000)
The late Jules Romains was one of the most versatile and humane authors of the twentieth century, yet he has already been largely forgotten. Verdun is a masterpiece of unanimism (a term Romains didn't particularly like): it reveals the great battle of WWI unfolding through snapshots of individual characters whose stories are seldom followed to a conclusion--a technique unappreciated by some of Amazon's television-bred reviewers.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Wind, Sand, and Stars (in print; published 1992)
Flight to Arras (in print; published 1969)
Night Flight (in print; published 1974)
Best known as the author of The Little Prince, Saint-Ex also composed several novels in exquisite prose dedicated to the man's life of risk and challenge and the vision that technology (especially the airplane) could advance human civilization.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Cancer Ward (in print; republished 1991)
The First Circle (in print; republished 1997)
The Gulag Archipelago (limited copies available; republished 1999)
November, 1916; Red Wheel; Knot II (in print; republished 2000)
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (in print; republished 1998)
Solzhenitsyn is among those authors whom we thought too widely known and read to need inclusion here... and then we were reminded of what thirty years of TV, videos, and a neo-liberal academy have wrought. So, back to basics--and there's no better place to start than the noblest soul of the twentieth century.
The Táin Translated from the Irish Táin Bó Cúailgne (in print; published 1983)
Cú Chulainn is somewhere between Achilles (whose doom of a glorious youth ended by untimely death he undertakes) and a cartoon Tom Terrific piling up thousands of victims in his sickle-chariot. A therapeutic read for all those slowly suffocating on PC. The black ink illustrations by Le Broquy suffice to make this edition a collector's item.
Leo Tolstoy. War and Peace (in print; published 2000)
-----. Anna Karenina (in print; published 2000)
-----. Resurrection (in print; published 1966)
We have sought to avoid Penguin Classics where possible, due to the poor quality of their paper and print; but Resurrection belongs to this series. It is a sobering thought that editions of nineteenth-century Russia's master story-teller are available, in some cases, in only a single edition resuscitated from several decades ago.
Richard Wilbur. Mayflies: New Poems and Translations (in print; published 2000)
-----. Catbird's Song (in print; published 1997)
-----. New and Collected Poems (in print; published 1989)
An esteemed translator (of French classics) and occasional author of children's rhymes, Wilbur won a Pulitzer in 1989 for New and Collected Poems but did not entirely shake the judgment of "intellectuals" that he was deficiently pessimistic to be taken seriously. So take him any way you want. Mayflies is his latest poetic collection: Catbird's Song is a short series of essays on writing poetry.
Charles Williams. Descent into Hell (in print; published 1965)
War in Heaven (in print; published 1981)
All Hallows Eve (out of print; click on link for directions)
Many Dimensions (in print; published 1965)
Of the three celebrated "inklings, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien are available at any bookstore. Williams remains the neglected member of the triad, even though (and probably because) he is the most subtle and literary of the three.
Conventional or "conservative" art does not have to present traditional social and political institutions in a good light, for this would be propaganda. What it must do, rather, is suggest how institutions may be overhauled to build other edifices more worthy of the principles behind the great tradition; or perhaps it may imply (as Jesus certainly did) that something about the institutional eventually works against the just and the merciful. Even satire and parody, from this vantage, can be seen as an adjustment of silly times and customs by the compass of eternal truth. In contrast, Chinua Achebe has said blandly that all art is propaganda--meaning that one hard sell has as much right to stretch the facts as another. So much for liberal idealism!
ART AND MUSIC
Books about the arts are truly legion. This list is particularly lean, and much in need of further suggestions. Of course, we recommend nothing which is densely mired in rigid ideology, impenetrable jargon, or rabid loathing of the Western tradition.
Philip Ball. Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color (in print; published in 2002)
We've all heard that the Eskimo has several words for "snow". Behind the cliché is a stunning truth: familiar sensations are not necessarily universal. The discovery of a certain color may indeed help to define an epoch. Ball astonishes the reader with an evolutionary history of various colors. The enclosed plates of "colorist" paintings are extremely effective.
John Camp. The Athenian Agora: Excavations in the Heart of Classical Athens (in print; published 1992)
A paperback volume recently updated, Camp's work has received very strong reviews.
Jonathan Chaves. The Chinese Painter as Poet (in print; published 2000)
The harmonious integration of painting, poetry, and calligraphy was achieved by Chinese artists as early as the literati of the Song Dynasty The collaboration of poetry and painting as "sister arts" is explored by prominent Sinologist Jonathan Chaves of George Washington University..
Bruce Cole. The Renaissance Artist at Work (in print; published in 1983)
Used as a college text on many campuses, Cole's book is a highly accessible source for learning about the life and labors of a typical Renaissance artist.
Reynold A. Higgins. Minoan and Mycenaean Art (in print; published 1997)
The complex prehistoric ruins--often palatial in scope--discovered in Crete and around Agamemnon's city of Mycenae on Mainland Greece are the basis of much that will follow in classical Greek architecture.
Paul Johnson. Art: A New History (in print; published 2003)
Johnson does not hesitate to stress some of the alarming qualities of contemporary art with the proper note of dismay. His study projects a sense of values rather than a reluctance to tread on theoretically trendy toes.
A. W. Lawrence. Greek Architecture (in print; published 1996)
A Pelican Book published by Yale UP, this is an affordable paperback with up-to-date information.
Wilfrid Mellers. Angels of the Night: Popular Women Singers of Our Time (limited availability; published 1986)
-----. Celestial Music: Some Masterpieces of European Religious Music (in print; published 2001)
-----. Music in a New Found Land: Themes in the History of American Music (limited availability; published 1964)
-----. Singing in the Wilderness: Music and Ecology in the Twentieth Century (in print; published 2001)
-----. The Twilight of the Gods: Wilfrid Mellers' Analysis of the Beatles (limited availability; published 1974)
Mellers' life virtually overlapped the twentieth century, and--as these titles show--he did not disdain any variety of music for being too popular or provincial. His writing style, furthermore, is that of an intelligent mind which revels in the musical experience and seeks to communicate its joy to others--the antithesis of a stuffy academic approach.
D. S. Robertson. Handbook of Greek and Roman Architecture (limited availability; published 1929)
For some inexplicable reason, the second edition is not currently listed on Amazon. Robertson has been THE textbook for this subject for many a decade in undergraduate courses.
Richard E. Wycherley. How the Greeks Built Cities (in print; published 1976)
A readable paperback volume, small and portable yet accompanied by photos and sketches.
Autobiography is nowadays too often either an exercise in kiss-and-tell titillation of a prurient public or a politically timed and designed whitewash or "smear job". We strictly avoid such titles. Nothing here has been rushed into print by exhibitionists or propagandists. Our effort, rather, has been to find works which have a distinctly literary value or address figures well known in literature.
Liam de Paor. Saint Patrick's World: The Christian Culture of Ireland's Apostolic Middle Age (in print; published 1996)
This is a truly scholarly work, full of actual texts composed by or about the quasi-legendary Saint Patrick and maps and diagrams elucidating the Ireland of his day.
Silvio Pellico. My Imprisonments: Memoirs of Silvio Pellico (in print; published 2004)
Le Mie Prigioni is a forgotten classic. Playwright Silvio Pellico was imprisoned under the repressive Hapsburg regime during the dismal third decade of the nineteenth century, having done little more than communicate revolutionary thoughts to friends. Over the following years of cold, starving incarceration, , he forsook his futile visions of a man-made utopia and discovered religious faith, like Solzhenitsyn.
T.E. Lawrence. Seven Pillars of Wisdom (in print; re-published 1991)
Of course, Lawrence of Arabia's account of how he organized the Arabs against the Ottoman Turks during World War I is not intended to be fiction (though some dispute Lawrence's devotion to historical accuracy). Nevertheless, "Mr. Shaw" (as he signed himself when the book was first published) clearly possessed an astonishing poetic gift for the epic narration of epic events, having himself once translated Homer's Odyssey.
Bill Veeck. Veeck--As in Wreck (in print; republished in 2001)
Caricatured as a con-artist and ruthless marketer by his unscrupulous enemies, Veeck was not just a disabled war hero and champion of desegregation (the real champion among baseball owners, unlike Branch Rickey)--he was an indomitable optimist and a creative genius whose story contains much of what is best in the American character.
We are aware that many on the Right are heavy purchasers of books about miraculous rescues, enriched prayer life, and "how to's" on dating or child- rearing or investing. What we offer here is "mere Christianity" (in C.S. Lewis's phrase): works, that is, which grapple with the fact of our mortality and the fairly certain proposition that no sane person can find any peace without seeking to serve goodness.
Joe Edward Barnhart. Religion and the Challenge of Philosophy (in print; published 1980)
Barnhart is a seeker after truth with an honest heart to complement his intelligence.
James G. Barr. History and Ideology in the Old Testament: Biblical Studies at
the End of a Millennium (in print; published 2000)
-----. The Concept of the Bible in Old Testament Theology (in print; published 1999)
-----. Biblical Faith and Natural Theology : The Gifford Lectures for 1991
Delivered in the University of Edinburgh (in print; published 1995)
-----. The Bible in the Modern World (out of print, used copies available; published 1990)
If the greatest threat to Western culture's survival is the rejection of the spirit, the greatest impediment to spiritual survival must be the materialist proposition that all knowledge comes strictly from without. When our "spiritual" leaders insist that God can be pleased only by memorizing and obeying biblical commands as a robot ingests a program, they subscribe to this materialism. Squeezed out of the picture is any possible foundation for love. Not that any command can ever bypass the filter of human intelligence--and, potentially, human perversity! In the words of Professor James Barr, "Thoughts that may be derived from revelation become the possession of the thinker in just the same way as thoughts that originate through human initiatives: they are his own thoughts, they become his ‘property’, the basis for his self-interest and self-aggrandizement in exactly the same way; indeed, if anything, the confidence that one’s thoughts are based in revelation, and are therefore not one’s own human product but are given to one by divine source outside of one, only makes more serious the hubris of the ‘natural man’" (Biblical Faith and Natural Theology, 125).
Earl H. Brill. The Christian Moral Vision (out of print; published in 1979)
Published for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, this stunningly common- sensical volume is a reminder--perhaps a sad one, certainly an accusatory one--of the rich, profound tradition which produced C.S. Lewis, and which contemporary Christianity has largely ditched in its effort to court membership and go electronic.
Thomas Molnar. Return to Philosophy (in print; published 1996)
-----. Authority and Its Enemies (in print; republished 1995)
-----. The Emerging Atlantic Culture (in print; published 1994)
-----. The Decline of the Intellectual (in print; republished 1994)
-----. God and the Knowledge of Reality (in print; republished 1993)
-----. Utopia: The Perennial Heresy (in print; published 1990)
-----. Theists and Atheists: A Typology of Non-Belief (in print; published 1979)
Professor Molnar has published more than fifty books, which have been translated into most of the world's major languages. As fully versed in history and philosophy as in religion, he is one of the twentieth century's preeminent Catholic scholars and a major critic of our culture's obsession with self-gratification. Frankly, his works could as defensibly be classed under "cultural commentary" (below) as religion, for the two are scarcely separable in them.
Leon J. Podles. The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (in print; published in 1999).
Dr. Podles is, of course, a traditionalist... but whatever your spots, there's no doubting that that both Catholic and Protestant church services have increasingly become "feel good" orgies deprived of their original rigor. His thesis will stir less controversy than his evidence.
John C. Polkinghorne. Belief in God in an Age of Science (in print; published 1999)
Canon Polkinghorne (the only ordained minister in the Royal Academy of the Sciences) holds serenely aloof from our favorite cultural pastime of waving Genesis in the face of archaeology. In physics and cosmology he finds, not the neon signs required by semi-literate pulpit-pounders, but legible divine footprints. Our own devout wish is that he had rated ethics as high as (or higher than) science; but this remains an intelligent, provocative read.
Books of philosophy are less read nowadays than arranged decoratively in hardwood cases beside the mantelpiece. Philosophers are not understood so much as cited in out-of-context snippets by fatuous orators and caricatured in brief butchery by tradition-loathing academics. To be fair, twentieth-century philosophy has invited such treatment by saying nothing very new in deliberately impenetrable jargon. Those authors are not represented here.. We recommend only thinkers who may be of profit to you in your struggle to find and live the good life.
Aristotle. Complete Works of Aristotle, vol. 1 (in print; published 1995)
You may purchase specific editions of Aristotle locally; see also the Loeb Classics on our Books in Foreign Languages page (which offer Greek with a facing English text). As far as we can discern, vol. 2 of this series has never appeared.
Owen Barfield. Saving the Appearances: A Study in Idolatry (in print; published 1988)
Barfield writes with an elegant style which offers its own rewards. His apologetics for the Christian faith are in many ways similar to C.S. Lewis's, but the quality of his reasoning is altogether finer and less rhetorical.
René Descartes. Discourse on the Method and Meditations on First Philosophy (in print; published 1999)
Descartes might be called the French Isaac Newton. Yet while fascinated by optics and brilliant in mathematics, he also possessed a deeply religious side. The Catholic Church was not always comfortable with his conviction that reason leads inevitably to faith (or not, at least, with the paths down which reason led him); but Descartes was nevertheless as devoted to his belief in metaphysical reality as he was scornful of blindly accepted, unsustainable tradition.
Henri Bergson. Creative Evolution (in print; published 1998)
-----. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (in print; published 2001)
-----. The Creative Mind: An Introduction to Metaphysics (in print; published 1992)
-----. The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (in print; published 1977)
Bergson's philosophy was not without certain worrisome tendencies and associations (e.g., its appeal to fascism's atavistic side--though Bergson himself, a Jew, lived in danger during the Occupation). Yet few twentieth-century thinkers have striven with such determination to reconcile scientific and spiritual reality.
Edmund Burke. The Viking Portable Edmund Burke (in print; published 1999)
Burke is usually associated with political conservatism--but contemporary Americans who are jealous of that distinction often manhandle his legacy. He mistrusted rosy idealism and believed that the fundamental perversion of the human heart must be held in check. On that basis he opposed imperialism and championed those who risked their lives to be free of tyranny--a far cry from calling from the exportation of capitalism where the clamor for it is slight. His Reflections on the French Revolution (Oxford UP) indicates the limits to which corrupt human creatures may morally go in seeking liberation.
Epictetus. Epictetus: A Stoic and Socratic Guide to Life (in print; published 2004)
Epictetus was perhaps the premier Stoic philosopher in terms of his later impact. A Greek slave who did most of his teaching among the Romans, he spoke fearlessly in behalf of the mind's ability to free itself from unpromising circumstances. His style is full of figures of speech and imaginary exchanges--anything but the stereotypical dry philosophical treatise.
Immanuel Kant. Religion and Rational Theology, a.k.a. Religion Within the Limits of Reason Alone (in print, published 2001)
-----. Critique of the Power of Judgment, a.k.a. Critique of Judgment (in print; published 2001)
-----. Practical Philosophy, a.k.a. Critique of Practical Reason (in print; published 1996)
-----. Kant: Political Writings (in print; published 1991)
The works mentioned above are all Cambridge Editions of the Works of Immanuel Kant in Translation. If we may judge by the liberally adapted titles, an objective of the series was to render Kant's arcane eighteenth-century philosophical terminology into something comprehensible for the less challenged contemporary reader. Of course, Kant's premier work was Critique of Pure Reason (not of this series), and the general reader may also be attracted to the Modern Library's Basic Writings of Kant
William of Ockham. Philosophical Writings: A Selection (in print; published 1990)
Often treated nowadays (e.g., by Jacques Barzun) as if his "nominalism" were the beginning of modernity's slide into relativism, the late medieval philosopher Ockham could more properly be said to have argued that reality is more mysterious--and hence more susceptible to supernatural influence--than we humans make it out to be in our vain presumption. More advanced readers may find helpful The Cambridge Companion to Ockham.
José Ortega y Gasset. The Revolt of the Masses. (in print; published 1994)
-----. The Dehumanization of Art and Other Essays on Art, Culture, and
Literature (out of print; limited availability)
-----. History as a System (in print; published 1962)
Ortega y Gasset had little taste for any of the factions competing in a power struggle that would explode into the Spanish Civil War. He imposed exile upon himself and continued writing and teaching in Argentina. His dismayed vision of a world peopled by insignificant drones has proved all too prophetic.
Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Of Being and Unity (in print; published 1943)
Pico's revolutionary view of human history was to become one of the seams separating the Middle Ages from the Renaissance.
Plato. Plato: Complete Works (in print; published 1997)
Editions of Plato are even more widely available than those of Aristotle. We offer here a chance to fill out your library with an inclusive text. See also the Loeb Classics on our Books in Foreign Languages page (which offer Greek with a facing English text).
Pre-Socratics. The First Philosophers: The Pre-Socratics and Stoics (in print; published 2000)
Published by Oxford University Press, this volume is an excellent introduction to several early classical philosophers who, individually, are the province of the specialist.
Benedetto Spinoza. Spinoza: Ethics (in print; published 2000)
Spinoza's valiant attempt to arrive at an ethic both neo-Stoic and Christian-compatible through the strict use of lucid reason is perhaps the climax of Renaissance philosophy's tendencies, naive though they may have been.
Stoicism. The Cambridge Companion to the Stoics (in print; published 2003)
There were several Stoics besides Epictetus (see above) whose works have come down to us in sadly fragmentary form. While they do not necessarily agree with each other in doctrinaire fashion, their composite creates one of the noblest elements of our classical heritage.
Perhaps no movement on the postmodern scene has been more confused about its objectives than feminism. Once a simplistic call for liberation from the bourgeois life of marriage and family, the movement developed its theory so as to denounce the Western tradition sweepingly--a suicidal miscalculation, since individual liberty enjoys a uniquely compelling pedigree in Western thought. More recent decades have seen a new generation of honest female commentators seek to make a case for their personal freedom which recognizes the limitations of human existence, the rights of others, and society's vital need for posterity and stability.
Danielle Crittenden. What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman (in print; 2000)
Ms. Crittenden's revelations about feminism may seem a bit obvious to some of us less gullible types... but this book has become required reading on the subject. That so many should have been so dazed when the veil was ripped away is itself testimony to our current benightedness.
Philip G. Davis. Goddess Unmasked: The Rise of Neopagan Feminist Spirituality (in print; published 1999)
Davis does with "feminist spiritualism" what Mary Lefkowitz's Not Out of Africa did with the attempt to render classical antiquity an African sideshow: he substitutes indisputable fact for sloppy conjecture and political grandstanding.
Cynthia Eller. The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why an Invented Past Won't Give Women a Future (in print; published 2000)
Eller's approach to this issue is every bit as scholarly as Davis's (above), and she brings to the table, besides, the concerns of a feminist academic who finds no liberation in daydreams.
Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life (in print; published 1996)
Professor Fox-Genovese, like Daphne Patai, would never represent herself as right-wing. This celebrated book has nevertheless been denounced by certain hard-core feminists for having dared to point out that ivory-tower feminism means very little to ordinary women trying to work out their complex lives.
Maggie Gallagher. The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially (with Linda J. Waite; in print; published 2000)
-----. The Abolition of Marriage: How We Destroy Lasting Love (out of stock, used copies available; published 1996)
-----. The Enemies of Eros: How the Sexual Revolution Is Killing Family, Marriage, and Sex and What We Can Do About It (in print; published 1989)
Of all the many young women now questioning the feminist legacy, Gallagher is among the most thorough researchers and keenest reasoners.
Carolyn F. Graglia. Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism (in print; published in 1998)
Mrs. Graglia brings to bear upon the feminist contempt for family life her own long experience as a mother, her formidable intelligence, and her impeccable credentials as a lawyer; mature and profound.
Daphne Patai. Heterophobia: Sexual Harassment and the Future of Feminism (in print; published 1998)
----- and Noretta Koertge. Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women's Studies (out of print; published in 1994).
Professor Patai is a wonderfully fine analyst and eloquent writer, especially compared to the Bacchantes whose delirious depredations so dismay her. Though she is not conservative in Mrs. Graglia's sense, her work offers hope that people of divergent values can nevertheless make a common cause of fairness and sanity.
Wendy Shalit. A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue (in print; published 1999)
An extraordinarily brave and delightfully straightforward book, partially written when the author was an undergraduate already ruminating upon feminist orthodoxy's efforts (unsuccessful, but vigorous) to make her sexually active, emotionally jaded, and furiously convinced that all men are predators.
Christina Hoff Sommers. The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men (in print; published 2001)
-----. Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women (in print; published 1995)
In both of these books (and, no doubt, in all her works), Professor Sommers buries her adversaries under load after load of irrefutable evidence--the technique which has gotten her banned from more than one feminist conference! Her optimism is less well-grounded--it seems to be a facet of her character.
What we like to call "philosophic conservatives" tend not to endorse change just because it keeps the economy moving and the money flowing. Far from it! Such reflective conservatism believes in clinging to our traditions because thoughtful people have created them over a very long period of time. Under "cultural commentary", therefore, you will find works that do not embrace the latest fads in technology just because they promise to make big bucks for someone.
Martin Amis. Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million (in print; published 2003)
Martin Amis examines the appalling indifference--nothing less than a neurotic denial--with which the Western Intelligentsia received the steady stream of evidence that Stalin's Russia was a vast slaughter house.
Sven Birkerts. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (in print; published 1995)
Birkerts still writes exclusively on a typewriter--which makes him even more retrograde than we are! When we can no longer give a fair hearing to our prophets from the wilderness, however, we shall truly cease thinking.
Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream (in print; published 2001)
Oriana Fallaci. The Force of Reason (in print; published 2006)
-----. The Rage and the Pride (in print; published 2002)
-----. Interview with History (out of print, limited availability; published 1977)
-----. Letter to a Child Never Born (in print; published 1978)
-----. If the Sun Dies (out of print, limited availability; published 1967)
The late Ms. Fallaci's works are now almost unobtainable in their native Italian; if she was famous and notorious before her death, she became instantly legendary after it. Fallaci so enraged Europe's PC elite that she was ordered to stand trail in Italy for "hate speech" after her ringing indictment of Islam's cultural imperialism in The Rage and the Pride. It is highly ironic that she became a Right Wing cause celèbre during her self-imposed exilie in New York, for her stubborn atheism and opposition to lockstep militarism (her father had been tortured almost to death by the Fascists) were clearly compatible with Left Wing positions. Yet she remained independent in all her writings and her real-life choices, including a decision not to have an abortion which drew upon her the reproach of every acquaintance from every angle.
Eric Gans. Science and Faith (in print; published 1990)
For some reason, this little book is very highly priced (about $70); but if money is no object, you will find no more academic a discussion--in the word's best sense, intelligent and unassuming--of this subject. The volume is something of a postscript to Professor Gans's highly respected Originary Thinking: Elements of Generative Anthropology (twice the length for half the price).
James Goldsmith. The Trap (in print; published 1995)
Readers seem either to love or loathe Sir James's quasi-conservative assault on neo-conservatism. Cosmopolitan millionaires no doubt enjoy wooing critics of capitalism as a way of "doing penance" or "being chic". Some of Goldsmith's concerns, however, deserve a serious attention which they have not yet received, even if his own recommendations are not always feasible.
Jeffrey Hart Smiling Through the Cultural Catastrophe: Toward the Revival of
Higher Education (in print; published 2001)
-----. When the Going Was Good! American Life in the Fifties (out of print, used copies available; published 1984)
Jeff Hart (Senior Editor of The National Review) enjoyed the post-war forties as a student at Columbia, worked in naval intelligence during the Korean War, suffered through the sixties as a professor at Dartmouth (with a stint as a Nixon speechwriter), and in general has watched our culture's intellectual and spiritual meltdown from as close up as any survivor could possibly have gotten. His latest book is less a prescription for academic renewal, to be honest, than a revisiting of cultural landmarks to which we have returned for centuries.
Michael Heim. Virtual Realism (in print; published 2000)
-----. The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality (in print; published 1994)
Heim is rather more sanguine about the future in his latest book than in Metaphysics, but even his most enthusiastic moments are predicated upon informed and intelligent analysis of a subject which usually draws the very shallowest kind of optimism.
Gertrude Himmelfarb. One Nation, Two Cultures: A Searching Examination of
American Society in the Aftermath of Our Cultural Revolution (in print; published 2001)
-----. The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values (in print; published 1996)
-----. On Looking into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society (in print; published 1995)
There is really no one else who can equal Professor Himmelfarb in familiarity with the necessary historical facts, common sense, sound experience, and good taste. She must find life on the Yahoo planet very discouraging... yet she is also richly endowed with a sense of proportion, if not of optimism.
Alvin Kernan (ed). What's Happened to the Humanities? (in print; published 1997)
-----. The Death of Literature (in print; published 1992)
Professor Kernan's success in the earlier Death of Literature made him a natural choice to edit the collection of spirited essays in What's Happened?
Russell Kirk. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot (in print only as paperback; republished 2001)
The late Professor Kirk is venerated as a founding father of modern conservatism. As this work's title suggests, he ranged freely (if perhaps too eclectically sometimes) among poets, philosophers, novelists, and economists.
Robert Kraynak. Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World (in print; 2001)
Professor Kraynak says of this book, "I criticize democracy for its leveling effects on culture but defend 'constitutionalism without liberalism'--limited government without the baggage of private rights." A daring thesis certain to provoke disagreement in some quarters... but Kraynak is a friend of common sense, and what we now call "private rights" is nonsense.
Christopher Lasch. The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations (n print; published 1978)
-----. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (in print; published 1991)
-----. The Revolt of the Elites (and the Betrayal of Democracy) (in print; published 1995)
The late Professor Lasch has probably a wider, more enthusiastic following among our colleagues here than any single commentator on our ailing culture, despite (or perhaps because of) his thorough chastening of both the Right and the Left in their established forms. The chapters of Lasch's formidable books are often very loosely connected and sometimes rather dubiously related to the title's announced focus, but... all the better! Then you have several pithy short books for the price of one long book.
Dana Mack. The Assault on Parenthood: How Our Culture Undermines the Family (in print; published 1997)
Undergirded by statistics and clinical studies, Professor Mack argues that the ideologues of our educational establishment are turning our kids into robots whose primary allegiance is more to a depersonalized state than to parents, and more to PC sentiment than to the state.
Myron Magnet. The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties' Legacy to the Underclass (out of print, published 1993)
----- (ed.). Modern Sex: Liberation and Its Discontents (in print, published 2001)
Magnet may be called a cultural conservative without any particular political agenda. He does not advance candidates or lobby for certain means of access to wealth: he soberly, rationally casts a pale eye upon our gradual (but accelerating) slide into the cloaca maxima of self-centered amusement and comments precisely upon the fall's stages.
Marion Montgomery. The Truth of Things: Liberal Arts and the Recovery of Reality (in print; published 1999)
It is becoming fashionable to scoff at new books about the PC stultification of the Humanities. Professor Montgomery's approach whoever--which might be called "southern agrarian"-- handles our cultural decadence with a placid irony in this collection of essays which recalls the Stoic nil admirari and Ecclesiastes' "nothing new under the sun".
Walter J. Ong. Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word (in print; republished in 1988)
Father Ong (S.J.) helped to revolutionize the way we think about the life and literature of pre-literate cultures; this work is a modern classic.
Neil Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (in print; published 1986)
---. Conscientious Objections: Stirring Up Trouble About Language, Technology, and Education (in print; published 1992)
---. The End of Education: Redefining the Value of School (in print; published 1996)
---. Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology (in print; published 1993)
Postman was among the first to lead the charge against electronic "culture" in a highly literate, analytical fashion (as opposed to the anecdotal swell of indignation from grade-school teachers and traditional moms). His more recent works also bring the computer into focus.
Lev Razgon. True Stories (in print; published in 1997)
Razgon is well aware that the world has heard the story of the Stalinist gulags over and over, but he insists that his own experiences need to be left in record lest the millions like him who suffered them be allowed to vanish without having found a personal voice. For that matter, what responsible adult would dare grow bored of the twentieth century's cautionary tales, particularly when so many of us seem not to have learned our lesson?
Judith A. Reisman. Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences (in print; published 1998)
Tolstoy insisted that Napoleon could never have led the French if the French hadn't wanted to follow. The same is surely true of Alfred Kinsey and our culture's sexual revolutionaries: Dr. Reisman is perhaps overly dramatic in laying the 60s at this twisted man's doorstep. At the very least, however, her volume is an appalling (and depressing) chronicle of how eagerly our "best and brightest" will pervert the truth in pursuit of a good orgy.
Jackie Robinson. Baseball Has Done It (in print; published 2005)
Jackie wrote about the first third of this book (originally published half a century ago), then devoted the rest to testimonials solicited from other players (Henry Aaron, Frank Robinson, Vic Power, Elston Howard, Bill Bruton, etc.) who broke into the Major Leagues when the color barrier eroded. The accounts are surprisingly diverse: one of the book's many charms is, indeed, that individual personalities shine through the varied reactions to the all-too-routine ordeal of segregation.
Barry Sanders. 'A' Is for 'Ox': The Collapse of Literacy and the Rise of Violence in an Electronic Age (in print; published 1995)
Sanders comes at some of Professor Ong's insights from another and far more alarming direction: our society is not a reprise of the oral community, but a negation of both oral and literate orders. A courageous book, given academe's reluctance for holding the media responsible for inspiring violent behavior in our youth.
Howard Schwartz. The Revolt of the Primitive: An Inquiry into the Roots of Political Correctness (in print; published 2001)
Just out, and it costs a small fortune (almost $70)--but Professor Schwartz's connection of PC to the pathologies eating away at our culture brings recent events into sharp focus. Of special interest to him is radical feminist irrationality. One needn't be (like Schwarz) a neo-Freudian to agree that feminism wants everything and holds men responsible for the limits of reality.
Roger Scruton. Culture Counts: Faith and Feeling in a World Besieged. (in print; published 2007)
Scruton is instantly dismissed or categorically condemned in certain academic circles because of his association with the "c" word; yet he his conservative in the sense that anyone who prizes the great creations of the past and the cumulative insights of humane cultural endeavor must be. Indeed, the "neo-cons" who dominate the current political scene are themselves often examples of the indifference to cultivated tradition which he deplores... but he is optimistic that they ultimately represent a minority.
Oswald Spengler. The Decline of the West (in print; re-printed by Oxford in 1991)
Spengler is obtusely caricatured sometimes by self-styled intellectuals as a fascist fellow-traveler. He was nothing of the sort. His highly erudite debunking of various widely circulated notions about historical destiny or repetition was indeed antithetical to Nazism, and anticipates many contemporary multicultural themes.
Sandra Stotsky. Losing Our Literature: How the Multicultural Classroom Is Undermining Our Children's Ability to Read, Write, and Think (in print; published 2002)
Professor Stotsky (of Harvard) stitches into her common-sense argument against "diversity"-filled elementary readers (often riddled with unpronounceable words from exotically non-European languages) a great many studies and examples. The work may indeed be somewhat overloaded with proof and documentation for those who want a discussion only of ideas; but her purpose, after all, is to show the hard facts about what ideology has wrought upon our children.
Stephen Toulmin. Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity (in print; republished 1992)
Unusual among theorists of our cultural decline is Toulmin's specific interest in science. You may flinch at the thoroughness with which he indicts rationalism (we do here), but this is a most thought-provoking work.
Eric Voegelin. Order and History: The World of the Polis (in print: republished 2000)
We would be remiss if we didn't mention one of the great thinkers of the twentieth century, whose ideas about faith, culture, and our present decline are remarkably compatible with Thomas Molnar's (above). This particular volume is the first of five in the Order and History opus, which LSU Press has just resurrected along with Voegelin's other works. His style is dense but not pedantic: give it a try.
David Walsh. After Ideology: Recovering the Spiritual Foundations of Freedom (in print; published 1995)
This book has received high praise from thinking literati (as opposed to avant-garde academics). Walsh studies Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Camus, and Voegelin on his way to affirming the Christian savior over various secular varieties. His favoring of experience over reason as a means of finding God begs the question of how we know goodness at all... but the word "reason" can withstand another snub after several decades of muggings.
Don Watson. Death Sentences: The Decay of Public Language (in print; published 2001)
Watson, a familiar on the Australian political scene, is virtually unknown in the United States, and some of his linguistic peeves likewise do not resonate beyond his island-continent. For the most part, however, his mourning the loss of conventional language should touch a chord in any reflective survivor of contemporary chatter.
Richard Weaver. Ideas Have Consequences (in print; republished in 1984)
The Amazon reviews are particularly helpful here--obviously composed by studious Weaver disciples. Suffice it to say here that this little masterpiece from the 1940's accurately anticipated the cacophony, sterility, and shallowness of how we live today.
POPULAR CULTURE (movies, TV, sci-fi, baseball)
The Center for Literate Values has never been particularly congenial to studies in "popular culture". The very phrase strikes many of us here as a contradiction in terms, inasmuch as great masses of people are swayed like wheat fields in the wind, while the word "culture" (lit. "intending to cultivate") suggests forethought and painstaking dedication. But the wind is stronger than the cultivator these days! Perhaps, then, our best shift would be to recommend books minimally swept up in the ruin of taste and maximally aware that TV and the movies were preceded by centuries of literary tradition.
Alain Carrazé and Hélène Oswald. The Prisoner: A Televisionary Masterpiece (in print; published 1996)
The futuristic BBC series The Prisoner, which first ran in the late 1960s and starred Patrick McGoohan (Secret Agent) as a high-ranking civil servant shanghaied for quitting his job "for reasons of conscience", was television's finest hour ever. The Village, to which Number Six is transported under sedation, looks more and more like our sinister college campuses and nanny states. This volume relives and analyzes each episode, and imports hundreds of photos to the discussion.
David Desser. The Samurai Films of Akira Kurosawa (in print; published 1983)
Kurosawa's films were as close to great literature as any ever made, and Desser's book is a succinct and highly informative appreciation of such aspects of them as would not be readily apparent to most Westerners.
Christopher Frayling. Spaghetti Westerns: Europeans and Cowboys from Karl May to Sergio Leone (in print' published 1998)
Most people do not begin to suspect what a fascinating pedigree The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly owns. Frayling explores the obsession of World War Two's defeated Axis powers with cowboy-drifters who believe in nothing, live for nothing, and possess a mastery in the martial arts.
David A. Kyle. A Pictorial History of Science Fiction (in print; published 1979), AND Jeff Rovin. A Pictorial History of Science Fiction Films (in print; published 1976).
We shall not presume to choose between these two fine books. Both might be styled "outdated" by the devotee of special effects--which is the more reason for recommending them, in our view: that is, they were written when sci-fi still possessed a sizable component of characterization and quasi-literary allegorization.
Danny Peary (ed.). We Played the Game (in print; published 2002)
Peary has collected material from interviews with former big-league baseball players--both stars like Ralph Kiner and "also rans" like Spider Jorgensen--for about two decades following World War II. The result is a huge volume which, more than documenting particular moments in baseball, fleshes out a critical period in our national history. Desegregation is a recurrent theme, as is the somewhat anomic lifestyle that led to the almost fatal shooting of Eddie Waitkus by a "groupie".
Jane Tompkins. West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns (in print; published 1993)
Professor Tompkins (the notorious Stanley Fish's wife, if one may note a very minor detail about so accomplished a person) would perhaps be unpleasantly surprised to find her work celebrated on a site which champions Eurocentric tradition... but it's a beautiful book, thoughtful and readable. What can we say? We like films about the Old West, and we like the way Tompkins ruminates upon their relation to gender issues.
George Will. Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball (in print; paperback reprint)
Probably the best book about the ethos of baseball ever written by a non-player; columnist Will analyzes some of the game's supreme analysts (Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripkin, Tony La Russa) as they go about fine-tuning their moves and tweaking statistics in their favor.
Less riveting than Men at Work, but a showcase for Wills' special gifts as an essayist. This collection of essays covers subjects as diverse as the vagaries of broadcast journalism to the demons of shady superstar Pete Rose.
Books in Foreign Languages
Before World War One wiped out a generation of educated young men--before its consequences expunged the remnant of European culture in a suicidal confrontation (manipulated by bloodthirsty demagogues) between a traditional Catholic bourgeoisie and unlettered, uprooted masses--literacy had raised no higher monument to the human spirit than this small continent's. Some Americans disparage Europe today. We should remember with compassion and deep regret, however, that our neighbors in contemporary France, Italy, and elsewhere north of the Mediterranean are but surviving castaways at least as separated as we from their glorious past. The Europe celebrated on this page is a magnificent relic which must be dug out from under the rubble of "progress's" miseries.
"If an architect learns bogus physics, his buildings collapse. If an astronomer offers voodoo projections, his comets don't show up. In the Humanities, however, there are few such chastenings from contact with a world where people eat, sweat, marry, and die. An English or philosophy professor can utter the most outrageous claptrap and be applauded for it as long as his 'independence' parrots the party line of his department's ruling élite. Foreign language is unique in calling the bluff of the 'arts'. If you claim to know Latin, you can either translate Deus dabit his quoque finem, or you can't. Small wonder, then, that foreign language programs have been steadily shrinking as Multicultural Studies programs burgeon. Few of the faculty steering these latter juggernauts can so much as comprehend a reading assignment from the second-year text of their undergraduate Spanish requirement. Their intellect is as miserably undisciplined as their taste and erudition are superficially groomed. In the learning of a foreign language lies the bedrock of a classically liberal education; yet today's sages of PC constantly struggle to keep their rhetorical façades propped up when one steps too heavily on the floor, where even plain English shows cracks and holes at a glance."
Dr. John Harris
Executive Director of The Center for Literate Values
Click here for a selection of splendid insights from classical and European authors.
Some of these titles are not available through Amazon (which is especially weak in German and Italian). We have built links to www.schoenhofs.com in some such cases: these links are followed by the abbreviation "Sch." However, titles constantly pass in and out of stock at Schoenhofs (more so than at Amazon), and these links will occasionally be inactive. The purchase of foreign-language books calls for persistence, and will frequently take you to used booksellers like www.alibris.com where the condition of volumes cannot be guaranteed.