On the Reading of Books

On Thursday, May 1, 1783, with "the young Mr. (Edmund) Burke" present, Samuel Johnson remarked: "It is strange that there should be so little reading in the world and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read if they can have anything else to amuse them." The word "reading" here does not mean, [...]

The Longest Night

Tony Judt writes in the latest New York Review of Books about his struggles with Lou Gehrig's disease, the motor neuron disorder that results in the eventual loss of voluntary muscle movement. At this stage, Judt is effectively a paraplegic, a state he has come to manage (with help) during the day -- but being [...]

Mary as Global Icon

The historian Christopher Dawson acknowledged in a 1951 essay the difficulty in explaining the Christian view of history. For Christians, God's actual involvement in historical time through a particular Person and place is a theological principle around which secular history occurs. For people listening to the Christian message for the first Mother of God: A [...]

The Voice of Twentieth-Century Catholicism

Since the death of J. F. Powers in 1999, admiring reviewers (all of his reviewers have been admiring) have mourned not only his death, but the general obscurity of his novels and stories. Although his first novel, Morte D'Urban, won the 1963 National Book Award -- over the more familiar names of John Updike, Katherine [...]

The Facts of Life

Catholic parents, let me take this moment to commend you. When it comes to education in . . . well, you know, the -- ahem -- facts of life, you have bravely stood up for parental rights. You have said: "These delicate matters are for parents to attend to! No one must usurp this right! [...]

Some Favorites from 2007

Here's a short list of my favorite cultural finds from 2007. If you happen to have seen, read or heard one of these, be sure to leave your own opinion in the Comments section below. I'd like to hear from you. ♦ ♦ ♦ Best Film: Golden Door The one film from this past year [...]

Our Contemporary Nihilism

A Consumer's Guide to the Apocalypse: Why There Is No Cultural War in America and Why We Will Perish Nonetheless Eduardo Velasquez, ISI Books, 200 pages, $22 Our contemporary culture reveals the "darkness the Enlightenment can no longer conceal." That's the thesis of Eduardo Velasquez's fascinating new book, A Consumer's Guide to the Apocalypse: Why [...]

Exposing the Death Dealers

In his first book, The Party of Death: The Democrats, the Media, the Courts, and the Disregard for Human Life, National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru fills a gap, providing the first general overview of life issues written for a popular audience in the last 20 years. It's a badly needed effort, for the situation has [...]

Structures of Self-Deceit

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, Garry Wills is a remarkably learned man. Graced with a powerful and confident mind and an elegant style, Wills is a forceful writer, with a clarity of conviction that is all too rare nowadays. Devoted to the rosary, the Mass, and the creed, he is deeply pious. But, above all, he [...]

Perils of the Popess

Pope Joan is one of the most tenacious myths of the Middle Ages, told and retold by Catholics and anti-Catholics alike since the 13th century. It is said that beautiful young Joan, an Englishwoman born in Mainz, Germany, disguised herself as a man to gain higher education beside her scholarly lover. Her brilliance won her [...]

Domestic, but Tranquil?

Caveat lector: Domestic Tranquility is anything but a tranquil book. F. Carolyn Graglia may celebrate the virtues, satisfactions, and substantial rewards of women’s domestic roles as wife and mother, but her brief for the softer, gentler female persona is fueled by an impressively sharp lawyer’s mind that makes no concessions to the traditional womanly qualities [...]

You’ve Gone the Wrong Way, Baby

Tobacco is dirty weed. I like it. It satisfies no normal need. I like it. It makes you thin, it makes you lean, It takes the hair right off your bean, It’s the worst darn stuff I’ve ever seen. I like it. —Published in the Penn State Froth, 1915.   The above poem, quoted by [...]