War and Peace for Dummies

Leo Tolstoy

Do young people write novels anymore? I don’t mean Kindle erotica or derivative fantasy fiction meant for the post-Harry Potter “Y.A.” market. I mean the sort of things I used to bang around with in my rapidly disappearing youth: semi-autobiographical bildungsromans cleverly (or so their authors imagine) concealed by the third-person à la Joyce; passionately lyrical evocations of small-town and/or big-city life; book-length pastiches of Faulkner or Nabokov or Pynchon or (insert the name of your favorite flashy prose stylist), all done in Courier or some similar type-writer-looking font, or even better, on an actual typewriter—sorry, fountain pens are for dorks, not would-be Flauberts. Ah, herte mine!

Shut Up, They Explained

Ohio Tea Party IRS

When conservative speaker Ben Shapiro came to Penn State on April 6 of this year, he was met with protesters from the left who trying to silence him.

Standing outside of the crowded room in which Shapiro was speaking, I witnessed a mob of protesters banging on doors, screaming as loudly as they could, and devising a plan to pull the fire alarm in the building to disrupt the speech.

Protecting Our Cops

Ferguson

Police officers across the United States are shunning interaction with their communities, and violence is increasing in those places. These are Heather Mac Donald’s two main contentions in her passionate, widely sourced book, The War on Cops.

Mac Donald begins in Ferguson, appropriately.

America Needs Nuclear Weapons—and the World Needs Us to Have Them

Barack Obama, Shinzo Abe

Since the end of World War II, it has been axiomatic that nuclear weapons are a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy, enabling America to resist not only far-flung threats to its security but to advance its interests globally.

Upon entering office and throughout his presidency, President Barack Obama in various pronouncements made clear his intention to overturn this link between foreign and military policy. During a visit to Hiroshima, Japan in May, the president intoned that there needed to be a “moral revolution” to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Total Warrior

William Tecumseh Sherman

A well-known—albeit colorized—portrait graces the cover of James Lee McDonough’s new biography of William Tecumseh Sherman. The image speaks volumes. Sherman’s hard, intense look seems to match his relentless efforts to drive the rigors of war deep into the Confederate heartland, and the frazzled, unkempt hair (more noticeable in the original black-and-white) speaks to Sherman’s restless and sometimes eccentric energy, which marked so much of the his life and military career. Well-researched in Sherman’s voluminous correspondence, up-to-date on recent scholarship, and briskly written, McDonough’s biography serves as a worthy introduction to this pivotal and heterodox general.

The Museums Lose Their Nerve

Elgiin Marbles

You’ve surely seen them, that collection of Ancient Greek sculptures in London called the Elgin Marbles. Forming about half of the original carvings that Phidias did for the Acropolis in the fifth century b.c., they were removed while Athens was under Ottoman control in the early 1800s by the English envoy, the Earl of Elgin. Even back in Elgin’s time, possession of the marbles was a contentious issue, and the squabbles have grown worse in recent decades. The national museums of Greece are demanding them back, while the British Museum wavers back and forth about whether or not the works should stay in England.

Religious Persecution in America

cross on church steeple

Backing up her claims with 29 pages of notes, journalist Mary Eberstadt shows how American secular culture is growing increasingly intolerant of religious beliefs that enter the public domain. The secular left wants to return to what Richard Neuhaus called the naked public square. It appears Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale had it wrong in the mid-80s; the ones who nowadays start witch-hunts are, for the most part, progressives who limn diversity.

This is why they seek to ban college campus Christian groups such as Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship because of alleged discrimination. Inter-Varsity groups have the temerity to desire Christians as their student leaders! Some question whether any Christian student groups should be allowed on campus at all, or if any Christian colleges should get accreditation.

When Did Masculinity Die?

Ernest Hemingway

The best line in this breathy, gossipy, here-we go-again-with-the-Lost-Generation exposé of the antics of the real people on whom Ernest Hemingway based his first big success, The Sun Also Rises, belongs to Zelda Fitzgerald. She called Ernest—not yet the white-bearded Cuban fisherman “Papa,” but a hungry-for-success unknown reporter and literary wannabe in Paris—“a pansy with hair on his chest” and “a phony he-man.” Ernest responded flatly that “Zelda is crazy,” and history proved him right. History hasn’t been as certain about Zelda’s claims, though scholars exploded with speculation after the publication in heavily edited form in 1986 of his novel The Garden of Eden, where some gender blurring seems to be going on between the husband and wife characters and both are interested in the same woman.

One, Two, Be

'The Death of Socrates' by Jacques-Louis David

Dustin Sebell’s The Socratic Turn seeks to rescue political philosophy from the ignominy it suffers, both in political science departments and in society generally. Can political philosophy (also known by its more respectable title, political theory) ever meet the scientific criteria for truth? Or is it more like literary criticism—subjective and full of vagaries?

As good citizens of modernity, we are skeptical that answers to the questions of political philosophy (like, “How should we live?” or “What is justice?”) are possible. And so the study of politics today takes place largely under the mantle of political science, an increasingly descriptive field of study that avoids the ought at all costs.

A Twentieth Century Custer

Douglas MacArthur

To read about Douglas MacArthur, to think about the life and achievements of the American general, is to be forced to two conclusions. First, that he really was a great man. And second, that the nation was lucky to survive him.

Perhaps it’s a testament to the strength of America’s republican traditions, at least through those mid-twentieth-century years in which MacArthur flourished, that we didn’t collapse into constitutional crisis simply from the fact of his outsized existence. Or perhaps the nation’s survival is a testament to MacArthur’s own deeply American character and political virtues. The popular historian Arthur Herman certainly thinks so, and to prove his point, he’s penned a 900-page biography, Douglas MacArthur: American Warrior.