COMMENDABLESnIn Defense of Pure ReasonnEllen Wilson: An Even Dozen;nHuman Life Press; New York.nby William McGurnnEllen Wilson doubtless wouldnbe surprised and possibly horrifiednat being called a rationalist,nbut a rationalist she is (with ansmall r), in the finest sense ofnthat word. The conflict today isnnot, as some might suppose, betweennfaith and reason, butnrather between illuminated reasonnand utter barbarity,nhedonism and what we callncivilization. For we live in a timenwhen serious thought is held inndisdain, and books such as MissnWilson’s An Even Dozen arenpassed over in favor of thenlifestyle sections of Peoplenmagazine.nAn Even Dozen is Miss Wilson’snfirst book, a collection ofntwelve essays whose subjectsnrange from gay liberation to thennuclear family, and her lightntouch is girded by a solid intellectualnappreciation of the Westernnethos. In prose that is at oncencalm and provocative, and occasionallynhumorous. Miss Wilsonnwrites on the fundamental problemsnof our society qua society.nThe central focus of the book isnsuggested in her third essay,n”Mother Didn’t Know”:nHetc I am not focusing onnchanged behavior . . . butnthe transformation of thennorm—of society’s expectationnof us—and the conse-nMr. McGum is assistant managingneditor for The AmericannSpectator.nquent need to make anchoice. If hypocrisy is thentribute that vice pays to virtue,nhas modern society decidednto withhold payment,nor has it merely changed thendefinition of virtue.’nIn an age when we are beingntold that promiscuity is nothingnmore than an advanced appetitenfor variety, that homosexualitynis merely an “alternativenlifestyle,” that abortion is nonmore serious than, say, a tonsillectomy,nthese essays provide annoasis of sanity, a question marknto 20th-century sophism.nThe Human Life Review,nfrom which these essays arentaken, is an intellectual journalnprimarily concerned with thenissue of abortion, which hasnbeen legal since the 1973 SupremenCourt decision. Abortion,nthough, did not evolvenout of an ideological void, andnits recent acceptance by our culturenis primarily a symptomnrather than a cause of a twistednethic. It is just one part of anwhole fabric of beliefs and assumptionsnthat shapes the lawsnand customs of our society. Anynserious analysis, then, must takenthese facts into consideration;nAn Even Dozen is one of a fewnsane attempts to do so.nThis sanity, or reasonablenessn, marks all her pages, whethernshe is discussing the new philosophynpropagated by women’snmagazines or analyzing the legalncasuistry of the i?o^j’. K’W^’decision.nOne has an awarenessnthat all these questions havenbeen asked before—if not in thensame form, at least in substance.nMalcolm Muggeridge, in his in­ntroduction to the book, seizednneatly on this aspect of the writing:nIt is as though Jane Austennwere to be reincarnated tonexpound the pros and consnof contraception, the casenfor and against euthanasia,nthe fiiture of marriage andnthe family, in the style andntemper of her incomparablennovels.nIn the best uadition of the essay.nMiss Wilson’s pieces are personal,ndirect and, above all, intelligent.nIn any collection of such writings,npeople are bound to havenfavorites, and my own is “ChildrennCan Be Cruel,” in whichnshe describes children as “notoriousnscene-stealers” and “egoncrushers,” obviously writingnfrom the rueful personal experiencenwith siblings and cousins.nShe also demonstrates that thennature of the child/parent relationship,nso much misunder-nWorks and DaysnLike It Was: The Diaries ofnMalcolm Muggeridge; Edited bynJohn Bright-Holmes; WilliamnMorrow & Co.; New York.nImagine the tediousness of,nsay, the diaries of Kurt Vonnegut,nJr. Then sit down withnthis collection of entries fromnMalcolm Muggeridge’s diaries—nfrom Russia, India, the UnitednStates, England—and see a mannof wit, erudition and charm,nqualities sorely lacking in manynwriters of today’s world. If Muggeridgenwere to be transportednback in time and space to a Londonncoffee house where Johnson,nGoldsmith, and the others hadnretired for an evening of conversationnand port, he would holdnhis own, a statement that can benmade about few now holdingncourt in the salons of New York,nnnstood these days, adds to thenparent’s adult life. “In fact,”nshe says, “if a parent is determinednto stick with the job of beingna parent, and a good one,nchildren will almost inevitablynforce him into maturity. Otherwise,”nshe adds, “the competitionnis too keen.”nIn this, as in her other pieces,nEllen Wilson is again urging anreturn to a reasonable reason, anwillingness to recognize that thentraditional values—family, dignity,nhuman life, children, etc.n—are not merely the irrationalnprejudices of fundamentalistnzealots, but are the basic principlesnof what we call civilization.n”Don’t ever take a fence downnuntil you know the reason it wasnput up,” said Chesterton, one ofnMiss Wilson’s favorite writers.nLike most sound advice, it is applicablento any age and, if AnnEven Dozen is any indication,nMiss Wilson has apparentlyntaken it to heart. DnParis and London. Journalist,ngovernment agent, editor, laynpreacher—Muggeridge was andnis these and more. In this respect,ntoo, he resembles the mannof letters of the 18th century: extractnthe theological aspect, andnDefoe certainly comes to mind.nHow puny other contemporariesnappear when we consider thatnthey are typically unable tonmake their way through thenmundane world (i.e. buyingngasoline and getting braces onnthe kids’ teeth) unless they arengiven enormous advances bynpublishers and film producersnand/or sinecures at majornuniversides. To borrow an imagenfrom Pope: “There marched thenbard and blockhead, side bynside, / Who rhymed for hire, andnpatronized for pride.”nDiaries, autobiographies—neven biographies—must be ap-nSeptember 198Sn