Category: Books

A Punishment to Fit the Crime

The only depiction of Hell that carries any emotional weight with me is that of Dante Alighieri, who imagined his realm of eternal punishment with less attention to the details of Church teaching than to his own rational mind’s sense of cold, hard justice. Each man judged unworthy of salvation is consigned to spend eternity in what we might call the hell of...

Reflections on Writing and Writers

Anyone who writes for attention is not a real writer. Writing is spiritualized hiding. It is no accident that Shakespeare, the greatest of all writers, is the one about whose life and person we know the least. He wrote dozens of the most magnificent works in literary history, and yet we are not certain who he was — or even whether he was....

When the Ovine Opine

LeVar Burton, an actor best known for roles in Roots and one of the many Star Trek rebirths, but also a longtime host of the popular children’s program, Reading Rainbow, has decided to throw his two cents into today’s mandatory moralizing about minds and works from the past that are so vastly superior to anything that can ever be produced in our era...

Nietzsche’s Collapse Into Madness

This age has pushed its rational minority to the edge. It has become difficult to walk out amongst one’s fellow human beings today without being intermittently struck by the thought of how embarrassing it is to belong to the same species as these others — these bipedal sheep, these regressed pre-individuals. But there is a hint of madness in such a musing, of...

How to Handle This Moment

At the end of the Peloponnesian War, in 404 B.C., Sparta appointed a ruling committee in Athens, the group which came to be known as the Thirty Tyrants. At the time, Socrates, a private man but a figure of considerable repute and controversy, was sixty-five years old. His most famous student prior to that time, the divisive iconoclast Alcibiades, had already been assassinated...

“Left-wing Indoctrination”

Washington Post headline at the moment of this writing: “Trump alleges ‘left-wing indoctrination’ in schools.” My first reaction: “Gee, what a revelation.” My second: “Does the Washington Post really expect its readers to find Trump’s claim wild and outrageous?”  My third: “Yes they do, and their expectation will prove true. The indoctrinated rarely know they are indoctrinated — and what is more, they...

Learning to Read

One path of a good reader, perhaps the most common modern path:

1. Find depth of meaning in the mediocre books of youth, which usually means the popular books deemed serious in your time, or among those of your “type.”
2. Realize that one’s “found” meaning was in fact deeper than the thoughts of one’s favorite authors, which in effect…

We, Being Pure: Part One

Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of the unquestionable giants of world literature: essential to the development of the nineteenth century anti-romantic novel; one of his century’s two great prophets and critics (Nietzsche being the other) of the then-growing nihilism that was devouring European intellectual life, and has since — as he (like Nietzsche) predicted — settled like volcanic ash over the entire civilized world;...

On Self-Destruction

Among the many remarkable insights of Dante’s Inferno is his assignment of the suicides (successful or merely attempted) to the Seventh Circle, that of The Violent, and one level lower than the murderers. At first glance, a modern reader might wonder how suicide could be judged worse than murder. How could taking one’s own life be more sinful than taking another’s? How, more...

Jot Notes from Underground

If you want a perfect synopsis of our political reality today, and where we are headed, read Brave New World. If you want to grasp the psychological weakness that precipitated the fall of modern civilization, read King Lear. If you want to know the mind of the bureaucratic expert class that is manipulating mass opinion and electoral politics in the name of advancing...