“Order, Chaos, Peace”: I review a biography of an architect of conservatism

for The American Conservative: Back when I was involved in the late-’90s conservative student movement at Yale, I noticed something. The libertarians, whose philosophy celebrated individual choice and experimental living, were normal and in control of their lives. The traditionalists were disorderly drunks who got kicked out of things. Libertarian pastimes included knitting and swing dancing; trads held contests to see which of them could punch his own face the hardest. (Always bet on the T … [Read more...]

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“Free to Choose, Revisited”: David Lapp

on Yuval Levin: Yuval Levin believes that neither hyperindividualism nor centralization can help financially struggling Americans like Lance, whom I wrote about yesterday in the first part of my review of Levin’s The Fractured Republic. I basically agree with Levin and found his focus on empowering mediating institutions—beginning in the family and spreading outward to places like schools, religious congregations, and the marketplace—right on point. And it’s precisely because I agree with him th … [Read more...]

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“The Right to Look Your Judge in the Eye”: I’m at AmCon

w/the theology of the body of the defendant: Last month a Michigan appeals court considered the case of a man convicted of methamphetamine possession. Although the man received an unusually harsh sentence (30 to 120 months in prison, based in part on his prior record), the decision of the three appellate judges addresses not only the length of the sentence but also, and at greater length, the way it was delivered: via videoconferencing. The defendant was in the county jail when he was … [Read more...]

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For There’s Nothing Original in Me/Except Original Sin: A Birthday Book Meme

I really enjoyed Melinda Selmys's list of the twenty books that have shaped her. It's my birthday (totally unrelated link, you guys) so it seemed like a good time to do my own list. Herein, fifteen books I blame, with commentary.In chronological order; when I can't remember (e.g. the first three books), in order from greatest impact to least. And keeping in mind that we are unknown to ourselves, we knowers, so probably like Carbonel, The King of the Cats should be #1 here, but the only … [Read more...]

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I Revisit Saul Bellow’s “Ravelstein,” A 2000 Novel About Love and Tenderness–And the Coming Crackup of the GOP

here you go: Ravelstein, Saul Bellow’s roman à clef about the last years of philosopher-provocateur Allan Bloom, may be the best post-9/11 novel published in the year 2000.Ravelstein has as many virtues as its subject has grabby, endearing vices. It’s a subtle portrayal of the blurred boundaries between eros, philia, paternal, and filial love. It calls attention to its own provisional nature: “I may return to this subject later,” the narrator says, but “I probably won’t.” It’s a loving portr … [Read more...]

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From Saul Bellow, “Ravelstein”

Obviously, my purpose in mentioning the Crillon's valet service was to comfort Abe for spilling the Flore's strongest coffee on his brand-new jacket. But Abe didn't want me to console him for being what he was. He would have thought better of me for laughing at his sputtering reckless slobbering, his gauche eager tremors. He liked broad comedy, old vaudeville routines, wounding remarks, brashness, and raw fun. So he didn't think well of my weak, liberal, let's-make-it-all-better motive--my … [Read more...]

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I Don’t Believe in Modern Love (But I Do Love “Modern Manners”)

Recently revisited Modern Manners: An Etiquette Guide for Rude People, my favorite PJ O'Rourke. I think what makes it work is the mix of elements. It's mostly corny humor, like the extended segment on food fights ("Use a raw oyster to show someone what a French kiss would be like if she'd married a reptile"). There's also a lot of witticism: a lot of peppy, preppy cynicism. But mixed into all that there is just enough genuine insight (the bit about how modern people have replaced love with … [Read more...]

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