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What We Are Reading: 3/1/2022
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What We Are Reading: 3/1/2022

This history of World War II should occupy an eminent position in any collection of studies on that conflict; it is a comprehensive treatment of its subject that stands head-and-shoulders above most of the stream of books issued since its publication in 1989. I reread it recently and have consulted it frequently. For many years, John Keegan...

Books in Brief: 3/1/2022
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Books in Brief: 3/1/2022

Islands of Abandonment: Nature Rebounding in the Post-Human Landscape, by Cal Flyn (Viking; 384 pp., $27.00). In our era of ecological angst, many are desperately seeking strategies to mitigate human damage, but Scottish writer Cal Flyn suggests a holistic new way—one that is simultaneously haunted and hopeful—of seeing these problems. She writes often in sorrow, sometimes in righteous...

Books in Brief: February 2022
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Books in Brief: February 2022

Christianity and Social Justice, by Jon Harris (Reformation Zion Publishing; 160 pp., $14.99). In this slim discussion of social justice and its relationship, or non-relationship, to Christianity, Jon Harris, a Protestant theologian and Baptist minister, addresses the topic long after he observed the “incursion made by the social justice movement” into the Baptist seminary where he...

Revisiting Suicide of the West
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Revisiting Suicide of the West

The philosopher and commentator James Burnham (1905-1987) was one of National Review’s founders and senior editors. Having broken with Trotskyism, he became one of those thinkers in the tradition of Edmund Burke and James Fitzjames Stephen, who, if not enthusiastic about modern democracy, were classic defenders of free institutions. He attained fame for his 1941...

‘Woke’ Evolution
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‘Woke’ Evolution

A Most Interesting Problem: What Darwin’s Descent of Man Got Right and Wrong about Human Evolution Ed. Jeremy DeSilva Princeton Universtiy Press 288 pp., $27.95 The complex debate about the place of Darwinian theory in discussions about humankind’s nature has been further complicated by an academic left that has taken up trashing Darwin—who is, after...

Doubting Thomas
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Doubting Thomas

Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell by Jason L. Riley  Basic Books 304 pp., $30   It is hardly surprising that an economist and historian of ideas who spent a long career arguing against the conventional wisdom of politicians and policy wonks would have a biography about him titled Maverick. It is much more surprising...

What We Are Reading: February 2022
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What We Are Reading: February 2022

What makes a great novelist? Genius—the ability to see connections hidden from most of us—obviously helps, but if great novels are great commentaries on the human condition, then living in a rich, stimulating, and challenging environment may also be essential.   A.N. Wilson’s brilliantly unorthodox literary biography of Iris Murdoch—perhaps the greatest novelist writing in...

Bibliotheca of the Bizarre
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Bibliotheca of the Bizarre

The Madman’s Library: The Strangest Books, Manuscripts and Other Literary Curiosities From History by Edward Brooke-Hitching Chronicle Books 256 pp., $29.95 Books are the “emblem of civilization,” Edward Brooke-Hitching writes in a new book that explores the strange history of the medium. The earliest books were used to establish and uphold administrative, legal, and taxation...

Driving Miss Racial Activist
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Driving Miss Racial Activist

At first blush, the 1989 film Driving Miss Daisy seems innocuous. Its plot centers around the relationship of an aging Jewish matron, Daisy Werthan (Jessica Tandy), and her black chauffeur Hoke Colburn (Morgan Freeman). Yet a recent rewatch caused me to notice irksome elements of the plot I missed the first time around. This has...

Reader Letters: Diversity as a Weakness | Professor Janowski replies: | The Feminized Force | Tyrannical Tariffs
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Reader Letters: Diversity as a Weakness | Professor Janowski replies: | The Feminized Force | Tyrannical Tariffs

Professor Zbigniew Janowski, in his essay “Equality’s Third Wave,” (January 2022 Chronicles) has hit the nail on the head. Equality isn’t good enough, but equity and diversity should prevail. Quality and merit are gone; second-rate is now good enough. We have watered down our core values to the lowest common denominator! —Lynn Paskow Savits Aventura,...

Books in Brief: January 2022
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Books in Brief: January 2022

Should We Stay or Should We Go: A Novel, by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins; 288 pp., $26.99). Who but the clinically insane would complain about the extended life expectancies in the Western world? We now expect modern science will teleport us to an earthly utopia, and the more time we spend there, the better. The global economy...

Fundamentalism on the Left
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Fundamentalism on the Left

Minds Wide Shut: How the New Fundamentalisms Divide Us by Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro  Princeton University Press 336 pp., $29.95   Fundamentalism has long been considered a religious phenomenon, a narrowmindedness that only afflicts Bible-thumping extremists. Yet fundamentalist thinking is everywhere today, and leads naturally to the authoritarian mind and the one-party state....

The Tyranny of Violence
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The Tyranny of Violence

Much has been said and written about the growing divide in American society between left and right, including in the pages of this magazine. But there is another growing divide in this country that is arguably more urgent, one that transcends ideological differences. It is a fight between those who seek to preserve order and...

The Political Hijacking of Science
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The Political Hijacking of Science

Science Under Fire: Challenges to Scientific Authority in Modern America by Andrew Jewett  Harvard University Press 368 pp., $41.00   I came of age intellectually during the academic science wars of the 1990s. I was just beginning my dissertation when physicist Alan Sokal created a scandal for leftist postmodernist enemies of science by getting his...

What We Are Reading: January 2022
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What We Are Reading: January 2022

What makes a prince? Machiavelli had some ideas. “Above all he should do as some excellent man has done in the past who found someone to imitate who had been praised and glorified before him,” he wrote. “[One] whose exploits and actions he always kept beside himself, as they say Alexander the Great imitated Achilles;...

Vive la New Right
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Vive la New Right

Guillaume Faye: Truths and Tributes by Pierre Krebs, Robert Steuckers, and Pierre-Émile Blairon Arktos Media 210 pp., $27.50 La puissance et la foi: Essais de théologie politique by Alain de Benoist PG de Roux 336 pp., EUR$39.00 I stumbled upon the writing of Alain de Benoist more than a quarter century ago as a graduate...

Death and the Christian Hero
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Death and the Christian Hero

Things Worth Dying For: Thoughts on a Life Worth Living by Charles J. Chaput Henry Holt and Co. 272 pp., $25.99 “Death is common to us all,” goes the old adage. The subject of mortality is certainly pertinent, given the current “great plague,” against which safety is dispensed by way of the great fear. It...

Imperfect Redemption
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Imperfect Redemption

  OLD HENRY (2021) Written and Directed by Potsy Ponciroli ◆ Produced by Michael Hagerty and Shannon Houchins ◆ Distributed by Shout! Studios The weight of the past so often looms large in the Western film genre. In classic films like The Gunfighter (1950), High Noon (1952), Ride the High Country (1962), or Unforgiven (1992), the plots...

Books in Brief: December 2021
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Books in Brief: December 2021

Enemies Among Us: The Relocation, Internment, and Repatriation of German, Italian, and Japanese Americans During the Second World War, by John E. Schmitz (University of Nebraska Press; 430 pp., $65.00). How can we possibly avoid history’s repetition when we don’t learn anything from it in the first place? For 50 years after World War II,...

What We Are Reading: December 2021
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What We Are Reading: December 2021

Milk cartons carry expiration dates. But, for obvious reasons, they don’t need them. History books don’t carry expiration dates. But, for less obvious reasons, they do need them. History books expire when archival discoveries supplant earlier narratives or when new interpretive theories emerge. Lucky for historical posterity, decades more will have to pass before Matt...

The Soul of the Claremont School
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The Soul of the Claremont School

The Soul of Politics: Harry V. Jaffa and the Fight for America by Glenn Ellmers Encounter Books 408 pp., $31.99 Glenn Ellmers, a former student of Harry V. Jaffa associated with the conservative Claremont school of thought, has produced an exhaustive study of his mentor. Ellmers has pored over Jaffa’s available writings, including a dozen...

The Red Butcher
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The Red Butcher

Stalin’s War: A New History of World War II by Sean McMeekin Basic Books 864 pp., $40.00 This massive tome is more than a new history of World War II. It is above all a depressing confirmation that the crimes against humanity committed by Stalin’s regime, including during the war, were comparable to those of...

What We Are Reading: November 2021
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What We Are Reading: November 2021

The plot of the Woman of the Inner Sea may strike one as interesting for a children’s book: An Australian woman leaves Sydney incognito for the interior and makes friends with a kangaroo and an emu. But Thomas Keneally’s novel is for adults and contains a complex structure, a rich cast of characters, and nuanced...

Books in Brief: November 2021
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Books in Brief: November 2021

Klara and the Sun: A Novel, by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf; 320 pp., $28.00). A conservative disposition imposes costs but limits downside surprises. If you always expect rain, you have to lug your umbrella around wherever you go. But you never get wet. Likewise, if you see life through a Menckenian lens, worstcase scenarios sometimes play...

From Hobbits to H-bombs
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From Hobbits to H-bombs

Britain at Bay: The Epic Story of the Second World War, 1938–1941 by Alan Allport Knopf 608 pp., $35.00 “The Second World War,” says  Britain at Bay’s flyleaf, “was the defining experience of modern British history. It is our founding myth, our Iliad.” It is also the inspiration for a continued outpouring of national self-congratulation,...

Slavery as a Political Construct
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Slavery as a Political Construct

The New York Times’ 1619 Project and the Racialist Falsification of History by David North and Thomas Mackaman Mehring Books Inc. 378 pp., $24.95 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project by Peter W. Wood Encounter Books 272 pp., $28.99 Imagine a country in which the major newspaper of its most populous city launches...

Her Majesty’s Afghan Warlord
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Her Majesty’s Afghan Warlord

The Man Who Would Be King Written and Directed by John Huston ◆ Produced by John Foreman ◆ Distributed by Columbia Pictures With Afghanistan on the mind, as President Biden tries to benightedly disengage from America’s longest war, it seems a worthy time to revisit John Huston’s 1975 adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Man Who...

The Sufferings of a Sculptor
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The Sufferings of a Sculptor

SIN (IL PECCATO) Directed by Andrei Konchalovsky ◆ Written by Andrei Konchalovsky and Elena Kiseleva ◆ Produced by Alisher Usmanov ◆ Distributed by Corinth Films Despite its potentially salacious title, Sin (Il peccato) is thankfully not another sordid tale about an artistic genius lured into fleshly temptations, having a crisis of faith, or battling with...

Books in Brief: October 2021
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Books in Brief: October 2021

Homo Americanus, by Zbigniew Janowski (St. Augustine’s Press; 250 pp., $24.00). Polish American political thinker Zbigniew Janowski examines the reasons that modern American democracy has taken a totalitarian turn. Contrary to the happy talk coming from establishment conservatives about the need to spread America’s so-called liberal democratic values everywhere, Janowski paints a dark but compelling...

What We Are Reading: October 2021
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What We Are Reading: October 2021

Although H. L. Mencken could discern “no plot whatever” in Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt, he still praised the novel as “a social document of a high order.” The 1922 classic mordantly sketches a bygone America and the paladins who made it run. Even today, the title character’s surname still mocks guileless Americans who conform unthinkingly to...

The Deplorables’ Academics
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The Deplorables’ Academics

Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life   by Jordan B. Peterson  Portfolio  432 pp., Hardcover $29.00   The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas are Killing Common Sense   by Gad Saad  Regnery Publishing  235 pp., $28.99   Walmart is for deplorables, the  left tells us. If that is so, then Jordan Peterson and Gad Saad must...

The Alienation of Henry Adams
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The Alienation of Henry Adams

The Last American Aristocrat: The Brilliant Life and Improbable Education of Henry Adams by Davis S. Brown  Scribner  464 pp., $30.00   Henry Adams (1838-1918) was born in the waning years of the early Republic. As he entered into adulthood after the Civil War, the country he saw emerging did not please him. The new...

Faith and Country Weighed in the Balance
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Faith and Country Weighed in the Balance

American Catholic: The Politics of Faith During the Cold War by D. G. Hart  Cornell University Press  280 pp., $29.95   “What the hell is an encyclical?” is probably the most honest and articulate response ever uttered by a Catholic politician in the United States. It was mouthed by New York’s first Catholic governor, Al...

Revisiting the Round Table
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Revisiting the Round Table

The Green Knight Directed and written by David Lowery ◆ Produced by Ley Line Entertainment ◆ Distributed by A24   In a world where chivalry is an alleged tool of the patriarchy, it seems odd that the story of the Green Knight, one of the most famous tales of the Arthurian legend, remains popular today....

The Soft Revolution
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The Soft Revolution

Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents by Rod Dreher Sentinel-Penguin Books 256 pp., $14.69 Rod Dreher is not the first to argue that America, and much of the West, has undergone a radical transformation in the post-World War II era. More specifically, we are moving at an ever-accelerating pace toward “soft totalitarianism,”...

The Declaration and Its Iconoclasts
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The Declaration and Its Iconoclasts

The Basic Symbols of the American Political Tradition (1995) by Willmoore Kendall and George W. Carey Catholic University of America Press 168 pp., $19.95 Ask the average American what  his country stands for and he will likely answer “equality.” If that person studied a bit of American history, he or she would then cite the...

Dynastic Nostalgia
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Dynastic Nostalgia

The Last Brahmin: Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. and the Making of the Cold War by Luke A. Nichter Yale University Press 544 pp., $37.50 Even before the Kennedys took center stage in American mythology, Americans have had their share of legendary families, the decline and fall of which have been staples of both history and...

The Strongmen Straw Man
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The Strongmen Straw Man

Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism by Anne Applebaum Doubleday 224 pp., $25.00 Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat W. W. Norton & Company 384 pp., $28.95 For some among the chattering classes, the electoral defeat of Donald Trump in November must have been a mixed blessing, though they doubtless could...

What We Are Reading: September 2021
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What We Are Reading: September 2021

Northwestern Europe’s early development owes much to the Carolingian dynasty, which led Germanic society into Christendom from the dead end of paganism. It set the stage for the lush flowering of knightly culture, with its ideals of chivalry, courtesy, and courtly love, which established the Western habit of mind. This Western ethos is rooted in...

The Troubled Waves of Stillwater
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The Troubled Waves of Stillwater

Stillwater Written and directed by Tom McCarthy ◆ Produced by PGA ◆ Distributed by Focus Features   Body and Soul (1947) Directed by Robert Rossen ◆ Screenplay by Abraham Polonsky ◆ Produced by Enterprise Productions ◆ Distributed by United Artists   A good example of what not to  do when using a real-life story as...

Books in Brief: September 2021
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Books in Brief: September 2021

Homeland Elegies: A Novel, by Ayad Akhtar (Little, Brown & Co.; 368 pp., $28.00). Mark Twain wrote in his 1897 travel book, Following the Equator: “Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” That saying came in handy as I read this book, described on...

Books in Brief: August 2021
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Books in Brief: August 2021

Becoming Elisabeth Elliot, by Ellen Vaughn (B&H Books; 320 pp., $24.99). This is the official biography of the wife of famed missionary martyr Jim Elliot, who was killed along with four other missionaries while attempting to bring the Gospel to a group of savage natives in the South American jungle during the mid-1950s. Elliot was...

An Unlikely Beauty
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An Unlikely Beauty

Miss Benson’s Beetle by Rachel Joyce New York: Dial Press 368 pp., $18.00 Why read fiction? It’s life without consequences. Reading Miss Benson’s Beetle, a novel of manners that successfully mixes satire, farce, adventure, and mystery, reminds one of the value of imaginative literature. Most of the action takes place after World War II, while...

Monumental Follies
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Monumental Follies

Iconoclasm, Identity Politics and the Erasure of History by Alexander Adams Societas 180 pp., $29.90 The ill-starred year of COVID saw another, more localized, virus—an outbreak of attacks on public monuments in several countries, particularly in the United States and Britain. While this sickness presents itself as a skin-disease, only scarring symbols, its virulency attests...

What We Are Reading: August 2021
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What We Are Reading: August 2021

“After the quiet 1950s…incidents of political violence again became more frequent and now we may be in the middle of another wave of sociopolitical instability.” Thus five years ago wrote Peter Turchin, a University of Connecticut professor specializing in “historical social science,” a.k.a. Cliodynamics. After 2020’s violent nationwide political protests and the pandemic’s destruction of...

The Christian Roots of WEIRDness
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The Christian Roots of WEIRDness

The WEIRDest People in the World by Joseph Henrich Picador 704 pp., $24.00 Christianity has blessed us with essential elements of the Western world that we should want to preserve, even while it has also produced corrosive pieces of our current cultural predicament. The bizarre political quasi-religion of antiracist wokeism, with its ressentiment-driven obsession with...

Books in Brief: July 2021
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Books in Brief: July 2021

Who Is My Neighbor? An Anthology in Natural Relations, by Thomas Achord and Darrell Dow (584 pp., $24.99). The headmaster of a classical Christian school has teamed up with a statistician to collect and sort thousands of quotations pertaining to human relationships from myriad religious, political, and historic figures. The result is an invaluable reference for patriots...

Faulknerian Presentism
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Faulknerian Presentism

The Life of William Faulkner. Volume 1: The Past Is Never Dead, 1897–1934 512 pp., $34.95 The Life of William Faulkner. Volume 2: This Alarming Paradox, 1935–1962 656 pp., $34.95 by Carl Rollyson University of Virginia Press Readers might be excused for exclaiming, “What! Another Faulkner biography?” Yet one can make a case for a...

The White-Guilt Grifters
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The White-Guilt Grifters

The Devil You Know: A Black Power Manifesto by Charles Blow Harper Collins 256 pp., $26.99 Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson Random House 496 pp., $32.00 The verbal tics of the orthodox Marxist vocabulary in mid-20th century Europe made it virtually impossible for communists to camouflage themselves. Ex-communist author Arthur Koestler...

What We Are Reading: July 2021
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What We Are Reading: July 2021

This extraordinary tome proposes a cure for our cultural illness: the resurgence of the muscular Christianity that once permeated higher education. The success of Fulton Brown’s project is far from assured, but in this essay collection she embraces the task with zealous ecstasy. The book is ostensibly the story of the author’s unlikely relationship with...