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A Forgotten Waugh

By From the May 2014 issue

American literary feuds: meh. So Gore Vidal called Bill Buckley a “crypto-Nazi”? So Buckley retorted, “Listen, you queer, I’ll sock you in the goddamn face”? Kids’ stuff. John Updike gunning for Tom Wolfe? A mere gentlemen’s disagreement, old fellow.Norman Mailer denouncing Mary McCarthy for, um, terminal femaleness? That was much ado about nothing (or, more precisely, it resembled Beatrice and Benedick).
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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

By From the May 2014 issue

What Should We Be Worried About?: Real Scenarios That Keep Scientists Up at NightEdited by John Brockman(Harper Perennial, 500 pages, $15.99)Fifty-five years ago British novelist, mandarin, and ex-scientist C.P. Snow gave a lecture at Cambridge titled “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution.” Snow deplored the mutual aloofness that, he said, existed between scientists and those educated in the humanities. The lecture set off a major public debate, and the phrase “two cultures” was for a time current all over the civilized world.
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Principle Was His Signature

By From the May 2014 issue

The Cost of Liberty: The Life of John DickinsonBy William Murchison(ISI Books, 252 pages, $25)
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I’m Sorry Ms. Jackson

By From the May 2014 issue

The SundialBy Shirley JacksonPenguin, 240 pages, $16
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A Study of Reading Habits

By From the April 2014 issue

By Rebecca Mead
(Crown, 304 pages, $25)

Here is a variation on a phrase you will encounter often in the course of reading about Middlemarch: “When I was such-and-such years old, I read Middlemarch for the first time.” Everything else unfolds from there.

This is, of course, very close to how Rebecca Mead opens My Life in Middlemarch, her literary memoir. But Mary Gordon used it in 1994, for her New York Times article “George Eliot, Dorothea, and Me.” Patricia Meyer Spacks used it in “The Power of Middlemarch,” an essay in a recent issue of Daedalus. Zadie Smith has used it in an interview. I’ve used it. I’m using it right now: I read Middlemarch for the first time at sixteen and I wrote in my journal that I was sure it would predict a miserable end for me. (It didn’t.)

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11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative

By 4.17.14

The 2014 election season dawns, with 2016 closing close behind that.

Make book that before both are over, the most quoted or cited person in Republican campaigns — and not infrequently in Democrat campaigns as well — will be Ronald Reagan.

There is a reason for this, as Reagan biographer — and American Spectator contributor — Paul Kengor notes in his newest Reagan book 11 Principles of a Reagan Conservative. In addition to being a prolific Reagan scholar, Kengor is a professor of political science at Grove City College and the executive director of the college’s Center for Vision & Values.

Why is this book important — a classic — particularly as the next two elections loom?

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Padding the Résumé

By From the April 2014 issue

By Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes
(Crown, 448 pages, $26)

Groundhog day, all over again, and we’re already off and running. Out in front of the pack for 2016, just as in 2008, is HRC, which is what Hillary Clinton told Ellen DeGeneres to call her. Whatever she’s called, she’s still ahead in the polls and, as usual, a media favorite. But there are miles to go, and she’s dragging a heavy load of baggage from decades past, to say nothing of the new luggage acquired during her tenure at the State Department: a destabilized Middle East and North Africa, where we’ve abandoned old friends and made new enemies, and where those who once feared us now laugh.

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King Barack’s Crown Government

By 4.15.14

The federal government threatens a Nevada rancher with the loss of his private property. A Long Island man loses his life to Obamacare while a Virginia woman’s family says, “Obamacare killed my sister." IRS bureaucrat Lois Lerner is held in contempt of Congress, having emerged as the key figure in a scheme to deprive conservatives of their rights.

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Master-Slav Dialectic

By From the April 2014 issue

By Mark Lawrence Schrad
(Oxford, 512 pages, $35)

A wager on the strong and sober” was the tagline given by Russian prime minister Peter Stolypin to his sweeping land reforms of 1906, which were the last serious attempt by the tsarist regime to forestall a revolt through liberalization. Leaving aside the strong for the moment, it is regrettable that history’s most crucial bulwark against Communism should have chosen at that moment to wager its entire stake on such a long-odds runner as the sober Russian peasant. In the land of vodka, such individuals have always been few in number and regarded with suspicion by their countrymen. As Boris Yeltsin put it—admittedly in a context of self-exculpation—“People will say, ‘What kind of Russian man are you if you don’t drink?’”

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The Cracked Vessel

By From the April 2014 issue

Edited by Frank Costigliola
(Norton, 768 pages, $39.95)

The career of George F. Kennan (1904-2005), the diplomatist whose name is chiefly associated with the Cold War, peaked when Kennan was in his early forties. On February 22, 1946, working at the time as a foreign service officer at the State Department, he wrote a “long telegram” of 5,540 words explaining the motive force behind the behavior of the Soviet Union and how best to deal with it. The gist of the telegram was that the Soviet Union, pressed by economic failure and hemmed in by Marxist-Leninist ideology, needed and found a perfect enemy in the United States, and therefore was uninterested in diplomatic negotiation or compromise. This being so, the best way for the United States to deal with the Soviet Union was to build up the still free countries of Western Europe and do all it could to contain Soviet expansionism.

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