This is an outstanding children’s book. We got it for our five children for Christmas and it became an instant favorite. It’s a clever instantiation of classic themes. On the surface, it’s a reversal of a typical Dungeons & Dragons story, casting the dungeon dwellers as the misunderstood heroes who triumph in the end, through pluck and determination. But I want to analyze it (though I am entirely sure that the author, Ben Hatke, does not intend this meaning at all) as a metaphor for the plight of social conservatives in today’s world, and the solutions for that plight. You may ask, what do goblins and dungeons have to do with social conservatives? You are about to find out!
There is a scene in Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks, in which a character comes across a book of philosophy (Schopenhauer) and realizes in a soaring epiphany that it contains the answers to all of life’s questions. For me, this book served much the same purpose—it explained to me why certain things are the way they are in the modern world. Although, sadly, it did not explain “all of life’s questions,” such as what is contained in Area 51. (I will also gloss over that the character in Mann’s novel quickly forgets the supposed answers and then drops dead of a tooth infection.)
[This is a reaction requested from me regarding a Washington Post article, by Alex Nowrasteh, titled “The right has its own version of political correctness. It’s just as stifling.”] This is not convincing, because it posits a false analogy. (It is also extremely badly written.) The analogy is false because it falsely defines “political correctness.” Conservatives don’t regard PC as bad because it shows that people have strong feelings, or because those feelings are believed to be irrational. (A side note: PC has been around for 30 years, not 10. See my review of Thiel’s “The Diversity Myth,” which was written in 1996.) They regard PC as bad because in wide swathes of America, and disproportionately in elite occupations, it is used as both reason and mechanism to punish those who fail to toe the line on whatever today’s PC orthodoxy is. (That orthodoxy, and the weighting of its different tenets, as with any religion substitute ideology, shifts constantly—see, e.g., transgender rights.) That is, PC imports ideological concepts as a tool to punish and silence ideological opponents, …
Of late, I have noticed much creeping, or rather galloping, nostalgia among National Review-type conservatives. Such nostalgia is doubtless a reaction to the current Trumpian trials of High Conservatism, whose leading lights must feel much like the characters in Toy Story 3, holding hands as they are fed into a fiery furnace. (The Toy Story characters survive, which probably distinguishes them from today’s leaders of High Conservatism.) “A Torch Kept Lit” offers a triple dose of nostalgia: William F. Buckley; eulogies of dead conservatives (and others); and a deep view of a dead time. And, like a papyrus scroll listing grain shipments on the Nile, it is redolent of ancient history, when High Conservatism mattered.
“People’s Republic” is part satire, part warning and part what I would call “conservative military revenge fantasy.” It’s a well-written, gripping read (like everything Schlichter writes). And the combination is successful, if the goal is to hold the reader’s interest and offer a frisson of conservative thrills.
Once upon a time, it seemed that Russell Kirk might, as he so devoutly wished, “redeem the time.” For two brief, shining moments, in the late 1950s and the early 1980s, Kirk’s efforts must have seemed to him like they might bear permanent fruit. But the moments passed, and it is clear now (in the summer of 2016) that Kirk’s efforts were always doomed. Or maybe only doomed in this age—on the farther side of our Ragnarok, perhaps his star will rise again.
“Liberal Fascism” is really a history book, not the book of political analysis I expected it to be. I didn’t love this book (written in 2007—apparently a 2009 version is updated to include talk about Obama), even though it’s famous among conservatives. I’m not sure why I didn’t love this book. Maybe it’s because despite the book’s aggressive thesis, it is over-careful not to give offense. Maybe I think its thesis is overstated. Maybe it’s because the strain of combining a complete history, intellectual analysis, and polemic regarding the American Left for the past century shows, in lacunae in the book. Or maybe it’s because the style of writing, which I would call “unflashy expository,” just isn’t compelling to me. Nonetheless, I still think the book is very much worth reading, because the history it relates is valuable to know.
[Italics are my interlocutor; regular text is me.] Hi Charles, I’ve been pondering the Republican debacle that is Donald Trump and would love your view. I’m wondering what alternatives a Republican with coherent conservative principles is supposed to do in the coming election. Is the anti-Hillary vote a vote for Trump? Or is a conservative vote a Libertarian vote at the expense of the general election? It just doesn’t seem like there is any good option for a conservative with a sound mind. Do you lean toward Trump to stop Hillary and forego the dignity of the country, or do you vote your beliefs and vote Libertarian, preserving the dignity of the US but conceding four years of democratic leadership? Or is there another option I’m missing? ______, good to hear from you. First off, congratulations! And we’re glad you’re moving back to __________, too! This is a good question, of course, and one not frequently directly addressed, because most of the players have a particular ax to grind. That is, if you’re a conservative …
“The Fractured Republic” is a fantastically original book. It is very optimistic, yet clear-eyed, which is a rare combination. Most optimistic books about modern politics are also simplistic. They typically consist of vague and belligerent paeans demanding the recapture of America’s past. Yuval Levin’s book, on the other hand, is the very opposite. It is precise and even-handed. And far from demanding recapture of the past, Levin explicitly rejects any such attempt. At the same time, Levin believes that we as Americans, liberal and conservative, can jointly renew our society without retreading the past, and in this age, such optimism is no small thing.
I read this book because it seemed like it would be an interesting companion to James Burnham’s “Suicide of the West.” Burnham’s book explains and analyzes the ideology of American liberalism, circa 1960. “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” in a sense continues that story; it explains how that liberalism discovered the Critical Theory leftism of the Frankfurt School, and like Gollum discovering the One Ring, did not benefit from the discovery. “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace” is, indeed, somewhat interesting. But it generally fails at explanation and analysis, instead being mostly a rambling diatribe preaching to the converted.