An important part of my education began with a discussion of fairies. Before orientation at my small midwest liberal arts college, I overheard a professor who would become my mentor and friend complain of a student who confessed the existence of fairies and other nature spirits. His elfen creed was this student’s act of resistance to the world’s desacralization, a gesture of defiance at modernity’s disenchantment. My friend understood the sentiment, sympathized with this desire for Narnia, but objected on the rather Chestertonian grounds that creation was plenty miraculous and magical enough without Puck dancing in sacred groves. He objected as a Christian and as a scholar of the early modern. The novelist Marilynne Robinson, had she met the student, might have gently responded in much the same way for much the same reasons.
Jordan Peterson is fast emerging as something like the C.S. Lewis of our time. More than half a century on, he seeks to answer many of the same questions with like pastoral care, and his influence and audience, while not now as general as Lewis’s was in 1947 when he appeared on the cover of Time, is strikingly similar—people frightened by the events and cultural shifts of their time.
Americans will never tire of comparing America to Rome. Such comparisons are carved in stone in the foundations and facades of our capital, and only slightly more subtly in the construction of our country. Which is perhaps unfortunate for a scholar such as Kathryn Tempest, senior lecturer in Latin literature and Roman history at the University of Roehampton in London. What in England can be read rightly as an impressive and accessible work of academic biography, must here seem a mirror to our strange and troubled times. Such is the fate of Tempest’s excellent Brutus: The Noble Conspirator.
Of the Bible’s significance, nothing can be added to two sentences at the heart of Deuteronomy’s Shema. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”
It is, at this point, a tired trope: the relative, usually an uncle, of at least embarrassing if not quite unsettling political opinions, a specimen of another time and place with thoughts on everything he’s eager to share but you’d rather he didn’t, at least while we’re eating, please. I have one, and you probably do, too—not so bad as the guides springing up online assume, telling you how to handle him as holiday feasts approach, but a character who keeps family meals interesting.
Yesterday saw the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Dwight D. Eisenhower Park for Lost Tourists. As has been reported, the Eisenhower memorial project has been a mess from the beginning, and now in the usual silly ceremony of shiny shovels shoved into dirt the mess is moving from the noumenal to the phenomenal—it’s not just a …
There is a part of me that would like to be able to laugh about the—legally speaking probably imminent but temporally speaking still a ways off—proposed Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial.
It is, after all, to be built between the Lyndon Baines Johnson Department of Education building and the John F. Kennedy-venerating Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, in earshot of the carousel on the National Mall that plays ice cream truck music forever. Designed by Frank Gehry with an estimated cost of some $150 million, it is supposed to include 8 enormous columns, 10 feet in diameter and 80 feet tall, standing about huge and erect, clad in limestone, like some sort of over-enthusiastic temple complex for Osiris or—as others have described them more delicately—missile silos, or smokestacks, or bad jokes about Ike’s interstate highway system.
For all of Tom Clancy’s obvious labor to ground his Jack Ryan novels in fact, there is something perfectly ideal about them. The Hunt for Red October (1984) and Patriot Games (1987) are products of “Morning in America.” So, for a first-time reader born on the cusp of 1995 and who became politically aware on September 11, 2001, these novels are pictures of a society that seems to have looked at America with complete confidence—works of such patriotism that intellectuals today would greet them as farce (as intellectuals did when they were first published). They are also terrific thrillers.