Category: Reviews

Home Reviews
The Disillusionment of Diversity
Post

The Disillusionment of Diversity

Human Diversity: The Biology of Gender, Race, and Class; by Charles Murray; Twelve Books; 528 pp., $35.00 When I was a graduate student in the 1990s, the following joke elicited knowing grins even from those sympathetic to the impenetrable French postmodernist theory that was then making the rounds: Q: Have you read the new Derrida? A: Read it? I...

The Adolescent Empire
Post

The Adolescent Empire

The American Way of Empire: How America Won A World—But Lost Her Way; by James Kurth; Washington Books; 464 pp., $30.00 “The most important feature of an empire,” James Kurth explains in his brilliant new book: …is how it seeks to order not just its own territories but an entire world, to set the standard for the way of...

Books in Brief: December 2020
Post

Books in Brief: December 2020

Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody, by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay (Pitchstone Publishing; 352 pp., $27.95). To understand wokeness, I often ask students to explain why they add the word “social” to “justice.” They have yet to provide a satisfactory answer. My subsequent requests for clarification...

What I Learned From the Left
Post

What I Learned From the Left

In The Politics of Prudence, Russell Kirk dismissed the notion of conservatism grounding itself in a single foundational text. Since conservatism is “neither a religion nor an ideology,” Kirk concluded it “possesses no Holy Writ and no Das Kapital to provide dogmata.” Sure, Chronicles readers can recite the political dicta of Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre, and John Adams. We confront life’s complexity...

Innocence and Experience
Post

Innocence and Experience

Humankind; by Rutger Bregman; Little, Brown, and Co.; 480 pp., $30.00   Rutger Bregman’s latest book is about what he calls a “radical idea” that has “long been known to make rulers nervous” and whose apostles will weather “a storm of ridicule.” When we learn that Bregman’s thinking is in radical opposition to Thucydides, Augustine, Machiavelli, Hobbes, Burke,...

The Church of Money-Grubbing Toil
Post

The Church of Money-Grubbing Toil

The Enchantment of Mammon: How Capitalism Became the Religion of Modernity; by Eugene McCarraher; Belknap Press; 816 pp., $39.95   When the German thinker Max Weber visited the United States in 1904, he was intrigued by the marked tendency of Americans to think about economic activity against a backdrop of religious morality. He tells of an encounter with a salesman of...

The Serfs of Silicon Valley
Post

The Serfs of Silicon Valley

The Coming of Neo-Feudalism; by Joel Kotkin; Encounter Books; 244 pp., $28.99   In the summer of 2003 my bride, our three little kids, and I headed to Chicago for that all-important summer job after my second year of law school. We acquired a “summer lease” for an apartment on North Orchard Street in the highly sought-after neighborhood of...

Books in Brief: November 2020
Post

Books in Brief: November 2020

Promised Land: How the Rise of the Middle Class Transformed America , 1929-1968, by David Stebenne (Scribner; 336 pp., $28.00). Dear David: I used the title of Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as my grading rubric for your submission on the 20th-century American middle class. Your work recaps the period’s economic, social, cultural, and...

What the Editors Are Reading: November 2020
Post

What the Editors Are Reading: November 2020

The Politics may be the most influential study of political theory and political practice ever written. Aristotle put the book together while investigating different regimes in the Greek world and elsewhere. The philosopher denies the existence of an ideal government applicable to all societies; instead, he looks at various governments that are appropriate for different peoples in...

Secession Becomes Thinkable
Post

Secession Becomes Thinkable

American Secession: The Looming Threat of a National Breakup; by F. H. Buckley; Encounter Books; 184 pp., $23.99   When asked whether a state can constitutionally secede from the United States, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brushed the question aside, saying the matter was settled by the Civil War. He was wrong. A Zogby poll in 2018 found that...

Rebranding the Right
Post

Rebranding the Right

American Conservatism: Reclaiming an Intellectual Tradition; Edited by Andrew J. Bacevich; Library of America; 663 pp., $29.95   A couple years after Russell Kirk’s death, I made a pilgrimage to his ancestral home in Mecosta, Michigan. My buddy and I looked at a map and plotted our course. We didn’t have an address but we didn’t...

The Poor Man’s Sam Francis
Post

The Poor Man’s Sam Francis

The New Class War: Saving Democracy From the Managerial Elite; by Michael Lind; Portfolio; 224 pp., $25.00   A mostly white, cosmopolitan “overclass” rules America with a technocratic fist through the union of public and private spheres after pulling off a “revolution from above,” Michael Lind argues in his latest book. As Lind sees it, the country’s political institutions...

Books in Brief: October 2020
Post

Books in Brief: October 2020

Retroculture: Taking America Back, by William S. Lind (Arktos Media; 212 pp., $18.95). One of the editors of this publication practically laughed in my face when I recently proclaimed myself a “city girl.” “You’re not a city girl,” he snorted, “you are Little House on the Prairie all the way!” Had he read Bill Lind’s latest,...

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

The New York Times recently spoke ex cathedra on the American founding through its “1619 Project.” You probably learned in grade school a cartoonish story about white guys in powdered wigs declaring America’s independence in 1776. The Sulzberger family’s College of Cardinals have declared the nation’s birth year was actually 1619, when the first hapless African slaves landed on...

Books in Brief
Post

Books in Brief

Russian Conservatism, by Paul Robinson (Northern Illinois University Press; 300 pp., $39.95). Canadian historian Paul Robinson has written a highly accessible study of Russian conservatism that extends from the early 19th century down to the present time. According to Robinson, defenses of the Russian homeland as a spiritual entity and the accompanying rejection of Western late modernity...

Old Story, New Resonances
Post

Old Story, New Resonances

A New World Begins: The History of the French Revolution by Jeremy D. Popkin; Basic Books; 640 pp., $35.00   Zhou Enlai was asked in the early 1970s what he, one of the architects of the Chinese communist revolution, thought of the French Revolution. His response: “Too early to say.” The international press seized upon that comment, which satisfied...

Catholic Comfort for a Wounded South
Post

Catholic Comfort for a Wounded South

Catholic Confederates: Faith and Duty in the Civil War South by Gracjan Kraszewski; The Kent State University Press; 216 pp., $45.00   Brother Brutus J. Clay, S.J., was a fixture at Loyola University in the early-to-late 1990s. The wiry Southerner with a thick Kentucky accent not only attended to the Jesuit Fathers’ chapel as sacristan, but was involved...

What Civil Rights Hath Wrought
Post

What Civil Rights Hath Wrought

The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties; by Christopher Caldwell; New York: Simon & Schuster; 352 pp., $28.00   The social and legal order that emerged from the civil rights movement of the 1960s now dominates public life. While Christopher Caldwell seems to accept in his new book the view of that movement as at least initially a...

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

Everyone to Bernie Sanders’ right gasped in 1994 when radical British historian Eric Hobsbawm argued that Communist regimes who murdered millions “would still have been worth backing” had there been a “chance of a new world being born in great suffering.” The diabolically deranged never connect maniacal theory to deadly results. We can’t psychoanalyze Hobsbawm, who...

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

Stendhal was the pen name of Marie-Henri Beyle, who adopted it from the name of a German town he had seen with Napoleon’s army. His 1839 novel of the Napoleonic era, La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma), was welcomed by a favorable and important review by Honoré de Balzac, and André Gide, an astute critic, included...

Books in Brief
Post

Books in Brief

The Shortest Way With Defoe—Robinson Crusoe, Deism, and the Novel, by Michael B. Prince (University of Virginia Press; 350 pp., $69.50). Daniel Defoe’s 1722 novel A Journal of the Plague Year has been much-read recently, for obvious reasons. But of course we remember him chiefly for 1719’s Robinson Crusoe, which was immediately popular for its new, realistic style, and...

A Decadent Diagnosis
Post

A Decadent Diagnosis

The Decadent Society: How We Became Victims of Our Own Success by Ross Douthat; Avid Reader Press; 272 pp., $27.00   The ancient latin aphorism per aspera ad astra (“through rough things, to the stars”) might well be a fitting epigraph for New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s latest book. Its cover features a 19th century French illustration of Rabelais’ Gargantua et Pantagruel being fed...

Slaying Dragons, Coddling Snakes
Post

Slaying Dragons, Coddling Snakes

The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West by David Kilcullen; Oxford University Press; 336 pp., $27.95   When the West defeated the Soviet Union, CIA Director R. James Woolsey, Jr., observed that we had “slain a large dragon” only to face a “bewildering variety of poisonous snakes.” Hamas, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda, and a proliferation...

Solid Strategy, Limited Vision
Post

Solid Strategy, Limited Vision

Metternich: Strategist and Visionary by Wolfram Siemann; Translated by Daniel Steuer; Belknap Press, Harvard University; 928 pp., $39.95   All states need a strategy, however rudimentary, in order to survive. Great powers need much more: a viable grand strategy for war and peace is called for to endure in the never-ending struggle for power, land, and resources. As A.J.P. Taylor...

Books in Brief
Post

Books in Brief

How Dead Languages Work, by Coulter H. George (Oxford University Press; 240 pp., $25.00). If, like University of Virginia classics professor Coulter George, you find dead languages an “endless source of intellectual delight,” then perhaps it’s time to explore Ancient Greek, Latin, Old English, Sanskrit, Old Irish, and Welsh. Admittedly, that esoteric list won’t help...

The Philosopher’s Ball Game
Post

The Philosopher’s Ball Game

[Infinite Baseball: Notes from a Philosopher at the Ballpark by Alva Noë; Oxford University Press; 208 pp., $21.95] I artificially altered my body to become a better baseball player. No, I didn’t take performance-enhancing drugs, though PED use was rampant during my time in professional baseball in the early 2000s. Anabolic steroids, human growth hormone,...

What Made the Founders Happy
Post

What Made the Founders Happy

[The Pursuit of Happiness in the Founding Era: An Intellectual History by Carli N. Conklin; University of Missouri Press; 254 pp., $40.00] The intellectual roots of the American founding and in particular the Declaration of Independence have long been a matter of debate. Over the years, several major interpretations emerged. The first and most venerable...

Madison Avenue’s Soviet Mole
Post

Madison Avenue’s Soviet Mole

[The Millionaire Was a Soviet Mole: The Twisted Life of David Karr by Harvey Klehr; Encounter Books, 2019; 288 pp., $25.99] A distinguished professor of history at Emory University, Harvey Klehr has in a number of books exposed the workings of foreign communists and their American counterparts and fellow travelers in academia, government, the media,...

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

Swedish author Pär Lagerkvist won the Nobel Prize for literature largely on account of his remarkable novel Barabbas (1950). It is like and unlike the best of other such novels based on events surrounding the life of Christ: Henryk Sienkiewicz’s Quo Vadis (1896) and Riccardo Bacchelli’s Lo sguardo di Gesù (The Countenance of Jesus) (1954)....

Empire States of Mind
Post

Empire States of Mind

Imperial Legacies: The British Empire Around the World by Jeremy Black Encounter Books 216 pp., $25.99 Although this relatively short book is closer to an extended, episodic essay than to the comprehensive history of the British empire implied by the title, it is an excellent example of the author’s style. Jeremy Black takes a broad...

The Mind Behind Big Brother
Post

The Mind Behind Big Brother

The Ministry of Truth: The Biography of George Orwell’s 1984 by Dorian Lynskey Doubleday 368 pp., $28.95 Few works in literature are as terrifying as 1984, that look into the future written by George Orwell and published in 1949. British scholar Dorian Lynskey unravels the novel’s themes, inspirations, and intentions in his latest book. Since...

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella of split personality, the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) immediately caught the attention of the late Victorian reading public and has been catching attention from new audiences ever since. It has provided the inspiration for 123 film adaptations, including the madcap 1953 version featuring Abbott and Costello....

A Skeptic on the Road of Saints
Post

A Skeptic on the Road of Saints

A Pilgrimage to Eternity: From Canterbury to Rome in Search of a Faith, by Timothy Egan. Viking Press 384 pp., $28.00 “Men go abroad to admire the heights of mountains, the mighty waves of the sea, the broad tide of rivers, the vast compass of the ocean, the circular motion of the stars, and yet...

Books in Brief
Post

Books in Brief

The Art of Statistics, by David Spiegelhalter (Basic Books; 448 pp., $32.00). Eminent statistician David Spiegelhalter has written a primer on his expertise intended for the general reader. It’s one of those “for the rest of us books” which promises to take a complex technical subject and simplify it, sort of like Analytic Geometry for...

Hitler vs. the Anglo-Americans
Post

Hitler vs. the Anglo-Americans

On April 20, Adolf Hitler turns 131. Ten days later comes the 75th anniversary of his earthly demise in the ruins of Berlin, but he is still our contemporary par excellence. He continues to haunt and fascinate. Hitler’s countenance, his very name, seem to get indelibly etched in the collective consciousness of each new generation....

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

No one so much as pauses when the mob shouts down reasonable voices during a panic. Just witness the media’s daily performance during the COVID-19 crisis. CNBC hit the ejector button on author James Grant during a live broadcast when he wondered aloud if the government’s civil society shutdown might lead to more harm than...

Books in Brief
Post

Books in Brief

The Long Night of the Watchman: Essays by Václav Benda, 1977-1989 (St. Augustine’s Press; 352 pp., $35.00). On July 4, 1983, in Prague, there occurred one of those moments that may rightly be considered a single loose pebble that caused an avalanche. Film director MiloŠ Forman had been permitted to return to his native Czechoslovakia...

Traditionalism Redux
Post

Traditionalism Redux

Many intemperate critics have attacked President Trump and his intellectual influences. Benjamin Teitelbaum is not one of them. Cleverer and more fair-minded than most critiques, War for Eternity strives to show that many modern national conservative and populist movements are paradoxically informed by the arcane intellectual current known as traditionalism. At the book’s heart are...

Fatal Amendments
Post

Fatal Amendments

Enthusiastic defenders of the First and Second Amendments to the Constitution are fundamentalist cultists—and women and minorities are their victims. At least, that is the thesis of University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks’ new book, The Cult of the Constitution, an unforgiving disparagement of the Constitution’s white male origins and the allegedly unwoke...

Lighting Up History
Post

Lighting Up History

When it comes to social hierarchy, smokers are only a few notches above pedophiles. Yes, smokers are bad, they smell terrible, and they cost us money—and everyone knows it. One would expect the “smokers bad” message to saturate The Cigarette. Surprisingly, author Sarah Milov spends almost no time singling smokers out for abuse. On the...

What the Editors Are Reading
Post

What the Editors Are Reading

Perhaps the greatest American autobiography in both the quality of its writing and the import of its content is Whittaker Chambers’ Witness (1952). Sadly, it’s also one of the most neglected by the country’s leftist-dominated intelligentsia. Witness describes Chambers’ winding path through the Communist underground in the 1920s and ’30s, from his Pennsylvania Quaker upbringing,...

Post

Books in Brief

Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center by Tyler O’Neil (Bombardier Books; 240 pp., $16.99). Journalist Tyler O’Neil of PJ Media has been busy. From roughly around the time of the Charlottesville racial conflagration in 2017 to the filling of the inkwells that were used to print this book, O’Neil has...

Dictatorship of the Deranged
Post

Dictatorship of the Deranged

A long time ago, I happened upon a cartoon in some publication or other. A single frame—in the vein of Gary Larson—depicted thousands of sheep rushing headlong off a cliff. In the middle of this great multitude, one particular sheep moved in the opposite direction. “Excuse me…excuse me…excuse me,” it bleated. That scene came to...

The American Muse
Post

The American Muse

[I]n populous Egypt they fatten up many bookish pedants who quarrel unceasingly in the Muses’ birdcage.” —Timon of Phlius, 230 B.C. For almost as long as there have been literary works, there have been literary canons, largely established by bookish pedants who do, indeed, “quarrel unceasingly.” The quarreling began early in the third century B.C....

Nationalism for the Lukewarm
Post

Nationalism for the Lukewarm

It seems that Rich Lowry has taken time off from castigating Donald Trump and calling for the prompt removal of Confederate memorial monuments to compose an entire book making “the case for nationalism.” A media launch was provided by Fox News’s Tucker Carlson, who gave Lowry ample time on his widely watched program to expatiate on...

Post

What the Editors Are Reading

Evelyn Waugh wrote Brideshead Revisited (1945) while on a six-month leave from the British Army during World War II. It proved a hit with the public, but the critics who had praised Waugh’s earlier satirical novels were less impressed, objecting both to its religious themes and its lush prose. Waugh never apologized for the former,...

Apologizing for the Bother
Post

Apologizing for the Bother

“It’s a small, white, scored oval tablet.” A little pill stands between Florent-Claude Labrouste and his planned defenestration. It offers only a temporary reprieve from the meaninglessness of life. As the narrator of Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel assures us, Captorix: provides no form of happiness, or even of real relief; its action is of a...

Post

Books in Brief

End of an Era: How China’s Authoritarian Revival Is Undermining Its Rise, by Carl Minzner (Oxford University Press; 296 pp., $29.95). Back in the 1980s, there was reason to hope that China would succeed in reforming, or at least softening, its authoritarian political system to bring it more in line with the capitalist world. This...

Post

What the Editors Are Reading

The Diary of a Country Priest (1936) by Georges Bernanos is as timely now as ever. It can be appreciated for its powerful Christian vision, its pertinence to today’s social illnesses, and its literary excellence, as shown in narrative technique, style, character portraits, and subtle plot development. I’ve taught it repeatedly. In a summer course...

Post

Books in Brief

Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation Against America, by Mary Grabar (Regnery; 327 pp., $29.99). Mary Grabar has performed an invaluable service by taking the time to dissect Howard Zinn’s polemical attack on America, A People’s History of the United States (1980). Although she doesn’t cover every topic Zinn addresses,...