It has been rare in recent years for me to get more than a few pages into a modern novel before abandoning it; rarer still for me to bother finishing it; rarest of all for me to read it in a single sitting. This book, by an American poet and professor of literature (poetry editor of First Things) is in that final and rarest category.
Actually, Cry Wolf is more than a novel, though it has many of the strengths of one. It is a political fable, in the great tradition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I can only hope that it will be as widely read and will be as powerful an influence as was Orwell’s masterpiece in awakening civilization to its present deadly peril.
I have been watching developments in Britain for some years and it seemed to me much of the book could have been taken from British newspaper-clippings with only the names changed, but obviously this is an American work. It leads one to wonder if the title of Mark Steyn’s brilliant and terrifying America Alone may not actually be over-optimistic.
Like Animal Farm, this is the tale of a farm run by animals. But the story of Cry Wolf begins with a very different situation to that of Orwell’s spiritually corrupt and terror-ruled post-Revolutionary Communist order. This is an American, or at any rate Western, animal farm, Green Pastures, which the animals inherited peacefully when the old human owner died (see Nietzsche). With considerable effort they have established a stable Commonwealth. They are proud that in the early days of running the farm they beat off an attack by a bear, and “No Trespassing” is their watchword (A lost dog has been admitted and has become a useful member of the farm because of his civilized or “tame” heritage).
To keep the farm running has been a difficult achievement and there is some hardship and economic inefficiency, but they have managed. They know that they live far longer and better lives than the wild creatures outside. Although The Wild lurks beyond the farm’s borders, with cougars, foxes, wolves and, worst of all, bears, the farm animals, even defenseless sheep and small birds like ducks and hens, can live in security. The dogs and the large, powerful animals like bulls and stallions guard the borders.
Slowly, and for very good reasons, the rule of keeping out wild animals in modified. As in Animal Farm there is an inevitability about the process and at no single point does it seem reasonable (or, at length, possible) to make a stand against it. A harmless doe is admitted, wounded and desperate after escaping from predators. Then a small raccoon whose hands make him invaluable for picking fruit which would otherwise be lost is allowed to remain after he begs and pleads for a job which will allow him to survive and feed his family.
FROM THERE THINGS become inevitable: more small non-predatory animals from the wild are admitted for very good reasons and form voting blocs in order to, democratically, express their point of view. The traditions, rituals, educational systems, ordinances and spiritual heritage of the farm are progressively modified.
The goose in charge of educating the young is by no means a complete fool. She is subject to uneasiness but cannot think outside the square of established ideas (It is part of the books strength that the characters are rounded, real and credible). Education, she assumes, is a good thing, the question of what is taught not entering into it.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?