321 CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnent writes in Stromateis.nThere is present throughout Thompson’snbook an enhancing simphcity ofnbelief and expression, and of the gift ofngrace itself In discussing Dorothy Day’snThe Long Loneliness, Thompson quotesnthese words: “People have so great anneed for reverence, to worship, tonadore; it is a psychological necessity ofnhuman nature.” One rarely finds suchnwords written or quoted today, and it isnspecially valuable that Thompson citesnthem and simultaneously illustratesnthem in his celebratory essays. ChristiannClassics Revisited reminds us thatnthere can be no standards of discriminationnwithout standards of piety.nThompson’s critical breviary revealsnan unfailing inspiration born of beliefnHe is able to see things and to makenjudgments that academic critics per sencannot. He establishes between himselfnand his reader a sincere critical communion,na spiritual rapport, a sympathynof ision. There is so much rot in thenrealm of critical discourse today, therenis so much conscious murder of thenSpirit in the classroom and in publicationsnof all sorts, that Thompson’s littlenessays, by comparison, sparkle with thenLight of the Word. Is it possible that wenhave had too much critical play andnthen too much critical madness? Thatnquestion kept crossing my mind as Inread with joy Thompson’s essays onnG.K. Chesterton’s Orthodoxy, IgnazionSilone’s Bread and Wine, Thomas Merton’snThe Seven Storey Mountain, KarlnEarth’s Deliverance to the Captives.nAnd as I read these essays I realizednmore than ever that they were the kindnof essays that one would hardly find innthe book pages of the daily press or innliterary quarterlies and critical inquiries.nFor so long we have been inundatednwith critical blasphemy of either a neutralistntendency like that of The NewnYork Times Book Review or a Marxistntaint like that oiThe New York Review ofnBooks that some of us begin to feel likenbeleaguered souls in no-man’s-land.nWhen Thompson speaks of his ownnexperience in teaching The Seven StoreynMountain in a college course on Americannthought and being met with annangry silence and cruel resentment onnthe part of his students, he captures thatnspirit of enmity that is symptomatic ofnmodern existence. And we are remindednthat once the seed of corruption hasnbeen planted in the soul, and in thenstate, it is difficult to extricate. We arenreminded, too, that the books Thompsonntalks about are in their own way thenforbidden books of the modern age. Anregnant orthodoxy of enlightenmentnhas seen to this!nThoiiipson’s essays show a sensitivencomprehension of religious awarenessnand concern, and the books he selectsnto talk about represent a wide variety ofngenres—fiction, autobiographv, biography,npoetry, criticism, drama, letters,nsermons. The premise that books, especiallynChristian-oriented books, “cannfacilitate the pilgrim’s journey throughnlife and can even be the means throughnwhich God imparts saving grace tonundeserving sinners” informs Thompson’snessays. Such a premise is particularlynto be welcomed at a time whenncritical (and life-) principles lack anynreal definiteness of moral purpose ornspiritual grounding. Our social and culturalnpluralism ineitably leads to conditionsnof life and letters that resist andnreject religious ideas and teachings; thatnequalize, sometimes in the most monolithicnways, secular ideas and spiritualnessences and make it impossible to perceivena hierarchy of idea and valuenand to respond in any way to ultimatenquestions.n”What does it mean to be a Christian?nWhat must one do to be saed?”nFor Thompson these two questions arenof transcendent importance, and henwrites his essays out of a deep need tonfind answers to these questions. HisnPOETRY lOURNALnPlains Poetry journal is committed to the theory that poetry is art and art is made. It’s the most refreshing concoctionnof real poetry you’ll find between the soft pages of a “little” magazine, by talented well-known and un-knownnpoets determined to use classical poetic traditions in vigorous, compelling new ways. Quarterly; $3.50/issue,n$14/year. Heartening editorial manifesto for SASE. Plains Poetry Journal, P.O. Box 2337, Bismarck, ND 58502.nnn