October 28, 2020

I love to read, and perhaps you do too. Plus, I despise totalitarian dictatorships, and perhaps you do too.  Is there any connection? Perhaps…. In a new book of essays on her reading adventures, titled Ex Libris, the long-time New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani mentions one of her favorites, A History of Reading (1996) by Alberto Manguel.  In it, says Kakutani, “Manguel described a tenth-century Persian potentate who reportedly traveled with his 117,000-book collection loaded on the backs of… Read more

October 21, 2020

Embed from Getty Images The Humanities’ Nietzschean Degeneration In a powerful essay appearing this week in Quadrant, Luke Powell laments the rise of a Nietzschean regime among the laborers in the vineyards of the humanities–including myself, I guess. His overall analysis goes like this: a nihilistic approach to the humanities is “only the symptom of a much more problematic malady. In the West today we have abandoned the core values that put these institutions in place. Ultimately, it is our… Read more

October 17, 2020

“The tingly audacity of ‘Natural Born Killers,’ and the addictive pleasure of watching it, begins with the perception that Mickey and Mallory experience not just their infamy but every moment of their lives as pop culture. Their lives are poured through the images they carry around in their heads. The two of them enact a heightened version of a world in which identity is increasingly becoming a murky, bundled fusion of true life and media fantasy. It works something like… Read more

October 10, 2020

Embed from Getty Images OK, I’ll admit it: I do not trust almost anything coming from the White House anymore.  I’ll start there. But who can we trust, anymore? I suppose for up to half of you, dear readers, I am now permanently labeled a Leftist extremist, a tenured radical, a never-Trumper fanatic. But if David Brooks is correct in his latest essay in the Atlantic, we have bigger fish to fry than just our feelings about the president or… Read more

October 6, 2020

Embed from Getty Images The latest installment of the Prufrock Newsletter (which I recommend) reports on a recent article by Alexandra Hudson in National Affairs. Hudson commemorates the 20-year anniversary of Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam, one of the most influential studies of contemporary America: “Americans just aren’t doing things together anymore. By choosing to engage in activities individually rather than communally, he asserted, we were putting at risk America’s capacity to build social capital and undermining our national character… Read more

September 29, 2020

Embed from Getty Images   Our dehumanization of the Negro then is indivisible from our dehumanization of ourselves: the loss of our own identity is the price we pay for our annulment of his. James Baldwin, “Many Thousands Gone” Every man in the chapel hoped that when his hour came he, too, would be eulogized, which is to say forgiven, and that all his lapses, greeds, errors, and strayings from the truth would be invested with coherence and looked upon… Read more

September 17, 2020

Embed from Getty Images “It is good that you grasp one thing and also not let go of the other; for the one who fears God comes forth with both of them.” Ecclesiastes 7:18 A couple of weeks ago, our friends were at home on a typical Saturday evening in Tower Grove South, a genteel neighborhood of older homes next to one of the best parks in St. Louis. Suddenly, the normal Saturday night was shattered, along with most of… Read more

September 15, 2020

Embed from Getty Images I’m launching this blog at Patheos at the tail end of summer of 2020, which is quickly becoming one of the most distracting times of our lives.  Every day brings strange, almost surreal news items. Just the other day, our president advised citizens to vote twice this fall—and more generally, he continued insinuating that the election process is fatally flawed and “rigged.”  Besides the presidential election heating up, and the rising racial tensions, the whole country… Read more

September 7, 2020

Embed from Getty Images Double double toil and trouble/Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Many people have heard this rhyming couplet from Macbeth, and may even recognize it as an incantation of the three Witches. We first meet these three oddities at the play’s famous opening. Entering boldly in a “desert place” featuring thunder and lightning, it’s one of Shakespeare’s most theatrical scenes in any of his plays. Later, Macbeth visits these three for some rather sketchy career advice, and it… Read more

August 30, 2020

Embed from Getty Images I’m launching this blog at Patheos, titled “Spiritual Coffee,” at the tail end of summer of 2020. As some have noted, it’s been a summer like no other in living memory. There are still among us survivors of the invasion into Normandy, France in 1944; survivors of the death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau; and survivors of America’s home grown internment camps at Manzanar, Topaz, Heart Mountain, and elsewhere. But for most of us: this summer… Read more

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