Tag: Books

Among Presidential Wannabes, the Hero Is…

 

the-heroic-heartIf my colleague Peter Robinson had a Homeric epithet associated with his name, as the bard often dubbed Achilles “the swiftest runner,” Peter’s would be “the provocative questioner.” At the end of an excellent Ricochet podcast with the gang last week in which I talked about the themes in my new book, The Heroic Heart, Peter asked me, first, who in the Democratic presidential field and, second, who among the Republicans might best be considered a hero.

For my answer on the Democratic side, I noted that although I thoroughly disagree with the substance of his convictions, Bernie Sanders has been an unabashed and unapologetic advocate for his version of “democratic socialism” over a political career that has spanned more than three decades. So at least we have in Sanders a man with the courage of his convictions.

Answering Peter on the GOP side turned out to be a much bigger challenge. I noted that when Donald Trump looks in the mirror, he certainly sees a hero looking back. But that’s not the real test. Then came a sequence of “uh,” “uhh,” “uhhhh” from my mouth as an indication of my mind’s evident bafflement in search of a GOP hero among that bunch. I finally averred that I just couldn’t get past John McCain, a true American hero (notwithstanding Trump’s cranky fulminations to the contrary).

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The preservation of preaching may not have been directly intended by the creators of YouTube, but I am thankful for it, because without it I may never have encountered Venerable Fulton Sheen’s various shows.  His small screen sermons have a timeless quality, and I dig his Chestertonian combination of orthodoxy and wit. Knowing that marriage […]

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I am a big Captain America fan, but I wasn’t always.  When I was a kid, and comics were still sold at the drugstore, I amassed a modest collection of a little more than fifty, notably the original Secret Wars series and a healthy run of Iron Man at about the time that Tony Stark […]

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It is natural for a writer to start out as a reader. To craft good stories, one must first appreciate good stories. To discern what good writing is, one must first read enough to see both the good and bad. The corollary is that it is a natural development for a reader who wishes to […]

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The Essential Conservative Reader for Adolescents

 

animal-farm-book-cover1As my children (currently first and third graders) get older, I’m increasingly concerned about how to inoculate them against the incessant liberalism they will be exposed to on a daily basis through school and media. I already have to deal with cartoon dogs lecturing them about global warming and teachers not letting them eat snacks because — heaven forfend! — the yogurt contains Oreo crumbles.

Dealing with that stuff is pretty easy now; I just tell them the problems with what they’re hearing on TV or in the classroom, or I ignore the issue because the attempts at liberal indoctrination have failed. But at some point, sooner than I would like, they are going to need more. So I started thinking about a reading list for when that time comes to help my kids realize that a lot of liberal pablum is misguided at best and overtly destructive at worst. I want them to think critically about these issues.

The reading material needs to be accessible to a seventh grader (or thereabouts), so the Road to Serfdom, Capitalism and Freedom, and Liberal Fascism are probably out. I also don’t want the material to seem hectoring or overly preachy about the virtues of conservatism.

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I’m always looking for a good narrative history, a book that can take the reader through a historical event like a work of fiction.  The Guns of August does this.  So does seemingly everything written by Winston Churchill.  Eric Larson does it brilliantly in books like Thunderstruck and The Devil in the White City.   Preview Open

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American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone – a Review

 

AmericanDreamsIn this campaign book Marco Rubio sets out his stall as the unapologetic Reformicon candidate. He writes clearly and with verve about his plans for tax, education, and entitlement reform, if somewhat less clearly about why he should be the one to execute them.

Being something of a Reformicon skeptic, however, I found it hard to get excited. There are the usual anecdotes about “Marge and Homer of Springfield” who have been done down by the system – or, at least, the parts of it he wants to change – and how his (or Mike Lee’s and his, or Paul Ryan’s and his, or Yuval Levin’s and his) policy prescriptions will make things all right again for them and the middle class. If you’ve read the lawnmower book you know the drill. If you’ve read much of Ricochet you also know the usual objections.

(Some of the anecdotes seem rather strange choices. Jennifer, in the first chapter, has failed to reach her American Dream despite going to college and getting a four-year degree in – public administration…)

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Many years ago, I started writing a book. The initial working title was 101 Tips for Writing Better Poetry. When I reached 254 Tips, I despaired of ever finishing, and quickly threw it out on one of my Websites. Obviously, the old working title no longer works. Not only are there more than 101 tips, […]

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The Nazi Within

 

amis_cover_3019706aI recently finished Martin Amis’s novel, The Zone of Interest, the plot of which centers around the conflicts of a host of characters inside a Nazi death camp — German soldiers, their wives, children, and, of course, the Jews. The book was rejected by Amis’s German publisher and received mixed reviews when it came out last year. That’s largely because of the unconventional and sometimes uncomfortable use of satire in a Holocaust novel.

The book reads much like a conventional character drama, centered around themes of jealousy, lust, ambition, and longing. Only, in this case, this rather standard human tale happens to be taking place in the midst of the most inhuman atrocities imaginable. Gruesome and brutal crimes of world-historic proportions serve as a mere backdrop for a story that stubbornly focuses on the mundane and rather unremarkable relationships of those guilty of the crimes.

You’ve never read a Holocaust novel like this one. Some readers might feel that Amis’s approach minimizes the heinous crimes that are taking place. But for me, it worked in just the opposite way. Amis’s focus on the trivial “drama” taking place among his Nazi characters has the effect of humanizing them and making the horrible genocide they are carrying out seem all the more incomprehensible. By the end of the book I was left wondering how, how, how did the genocidal mania of Nazism ever take hold of nearly an entire nation of seemingly normal human beings? What was the origin of this great hatred, and of the great collective will to act on it?

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Electronic publishing has created a whole new category of books, one where regular folks can get their writing out to the public without having to go through the traditional publishing process. Ricochet members who have done this should feel free to plug their work in the comments.  Here I plan to point out some free […]

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I wrote last year about the books I found at the downtown Denver Tattered Cover. I didn’t even get to profile every volume, because there were a number of them and I got wordy with the first few.  The Tattered Cover bookstore features used books amongst its stock of  new ones; it also offers a […]

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My 17-year-old son has asked for some good works of fiction to read this summer.  He’s a fine student, but has never been an avid reader.  His siblings love to read and I’ve shoved books at him for years, but haven’t been able to get him hooked.   I’d like to find something that combines literary merit with […]

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Do You Guys Write in Your Books?

 

marginalia“Most intelligent people do, Jason.” So I was told by another Member, when I said that I don’t. I guess it goes back to my schooling, when we were told that Very Bad Things would happen if we defiled the holy works of Wiley or Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Also, I always considered it kind of cranky: my grandmother would talk back to the author in her marginal notes (exclamation points were plentiful) and I always wanted to tell her, “You know, he can’t actually hear you…”

But it’s undeniable that these things can enrich the reading experience. Marginalia can be a source of knowledge not only about the text but about the context.

The Brotherhood of Dad: A Review of the Dadly Virtues

 

DadFrat

In the Fraternity of Dad, children haze their sires, who become men.  Maybe.  With one exception, each of the contributors to The Dadly Virtues is a member of the Frat of Dad and has stories about what he learned, what he wishes he’d known, and what he still doesn’t know.

The book is arranged chronologically, from new fathers to grandfathers, but you should start with the final essay, Joseph Epstein’s reflections on being a single father and then helping raise his grandchildren.  Amongst the frat, Epstein is the man, a mensch, the incredibly cool alumnus everybody wants to be—or at least write as well as.  You can read Epstein’s contribution at Commentary:

The Dadly Virtues

 

Despite being childless — as well as spouseless — I was asked to contribute to The Dadly Virtuesanother great edition of the “Virtues” series from Templeton Press.

Here’s me, Jonah Goldberg, our own James Lileks, Tucker Carlson, P.J. O’Rourke, Stephen Hayes, and editor Jonathan Last at AEI yesterday.