Our annual list of holiday gift suggestions from distinguished readers and writers.
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1. Giuseppe di Lampedusa, The Leopard (1958). A novel, by a Sicilian prince, about a Sicilian prince. An astonishing story of a womanizing 19th-century nobleman who sees the liberal revolution coming but cannot gather his decadent self enough to do anything about it.
2. Lawrence Edward Watkin, Geese in the Forum (1940). An English professor turned Disney scriptwriter, Watkin produced a god-awful sentimental piece of claptrap in 1937 called On Borrowed Time. It was, naturally, a great success on Broadway and in Hollywood. He also wrote, however, the most ragingly conservative and deeply funny story in the overpopulated genre of academic novels—the almost forgotten but worth reviving Geese in the Forum.
3. Robert Warshow, The Immediate Experience (1962; expanded 2001). We remember such critics as Edmund Wilson and, for our sins, Pauline Kael. But the best of them may have been Robert Warshow, who died in 1955 at the age of 37. A great, funny, profound, and conservative writer about movies, books, plays, and culture for such journals as Commentary and The Partisan Review, his collected essays appear posthumously and need to be reread.
4. James Hilton, Random Harvest (1941). Well, yes, it’s hard to call Hilton unknown. He was an international bestseller, as he would have to have been with such crowd-pleasing stories as Lost Horizon and Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Skip the movies, however, to read the books, and you’ll find that Hilton was an author who saw both the light and the dark in human beings—which made him a man of conservative impulses, as it makes everyone who sees clearly into fallen nature. Random Harvest is a first-rate potboiler and a glimpse into a world of Tory virtue.
5. Joseph Bottum, The Second Spring: Words into Music, Music into Words (2011). An exploration of the poetry of lyrics and a claim that we can overcome the self-conscious irony that is the bane of our age by surrendering to the internal structures of art and allowing various genres to do the work they want to do. Yes, these are words, musical scores, and critical commentary by a second-rate poet, third-rate arranger, and fourth-rate critic, but the book makes a conservative point that might be worth your time. If you’re not too busy.
Joseph Bottum is a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard and author of The Second Spring: Words into Music, Music into Words.
Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant: With good reason (discounting for their personal relationship), Twain called them the best military memoirs since Julius Caesar’s.
Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (Scribner) by Daniel Okrent: Prohibition didn’t last long, but its consequences have, in fascinating ways.
The Time It Never Rained (Forge), by Elmer Kelton: Obstinacy in the assertion of freedom is no vice, but it can be awfully tough. Charlie Flagg, the proud individualist who, even facing disaster, can’t abide accepting money from his fellow taxpayers, is one of the memorable characters of modern literature.
The Mind of St. Paul, by William Barclay: A lost classic of the Christian faith, a helpful translation of the greatest evangelist’s life and letters.
Mitch Daniels is the governor of Indiana.
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?