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“The book that people are reading now,” according to Lion of the Blogosophere, is Brynjolfsson and McAfee’s The Second Machine Age. I hastened to buy a copy and read it…so you don’t have to! The authors are professional Deep Thinkers with positions at the MIT Center for Digital Business, which you can read about at... Read More
The Outer Limits of Reason: What Science, Mathematics, and Logic Cannot Tell Us, by Noson S. Yanofsky
How rarely Reason guides the stubborn Choice / Rules the bold Hand, or prompts the suppliant Voice.” Dr. Johnson didn’t know the half of it. Not only does reason play a dismayingly small part in human affairs, but reason itself has built-in limitations that prevent our employing it in many cases where we should like... Read More
Sincerity: How a Moral Ideal Born Five Hundred Years Ago Inspired Religious Wars, Modern Art, Hipster Chic, and...
The word “sincere” first showed up in written English in 1533, the author of this useful book tells us. It came with, or soon acquired, a very pretty etymology, from the Latin sine cera, “without wax”—the wax that dishonest masons and sculptors used to disguise defects in their products. Alas, the etymology is false: “Sincere”... Read More
Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England, by Roger Scruton
Thus Rev. Thwackum, the schoolmaster in Tom Jones. That was the 1730s, or about halfway through Roger Scruton's Our Church. The Rev. Thwackum is drawn satirically, but his smugness was well justified. The religious passions of the previous century had subsided or been pushed off to inconsequential border territories in Ireland and the North American... Read More
War and Democracy: Selected Essays 1975-2012, Paul Gottfried
The last time I saw Paul Gottfried was at the Mencken Club bash last November. At one point between lectures I passed him in a hallway having an animated conversation in French with some French visitors. A year or so before that, Paul and I were both speakers at Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society... Read More
Heaven: The Heart's Deepest Longing, by Peter Kreeft
Seeing that the first sentence in the first paragraph of the first chapter of Peter Kreeft's book Heaven: The Heart's Deepest Longing is a quote from C.S. Lewis, my suspicions were aroused right away. Kreeft hastened to confirm them, quoting Lewis again four pages further on, and again eleven pages after that, then four pages... Read More
Crusader: The Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan, by Timothy Stanley
Has Pat Buchanan been fired from MSNBC, or hasn't he? Pat hasn't been seen on the channel since October, when his last book came out. (I reviewed it for TakiMag here.) MSNBC president Phil Griffin said a month ago that Pat was being kept off the air because of things Griffin found objectionable in the... Read More
Suicide of a Superpower, by Patrick J. Buchanan
One of the schoolmasters in charge of my Religious Instruction — Anglican, of course — used to say that a good hymn is one that leaves you feeling absolutely terrible. I feel the same way about Pat Buchanan's books. By this measure, Suicide of a Superpower is a very good Buchanan book indeed. With chapter... Read More
All our fashionable blather about "diversity" notwithstanding, we live in an age of ethnic disaggregation. Czechs and Slovaks, Serbs and Croats, Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Abkhazians and Ossetians and Georgians, have all separated after centuries of cohabitation. The Flemish and Walloons of Belgium look set fair to do the same. The Jews are long gone... Read More
Men versus the Man: A Correspondence between Robert Rives La Monte, Socialist, and H.L. Mencken,...
————————— ————————— Let me do a little scene-setting here. It is March of 1910 — just 100 years and change ago. William Howard Taft is in the White House; Edward the Seventh, very nearly Taft's equal in girth, was on the British throne. China's last Emperor was in the Forbidden City, and the Russian Empress... Read More
The Uses of Pessimism, by Roger Scruton
Pessimism and optimism are the two ends of a spectrum that spans one of the many dimensions of the individual human personality. We observe that any given human being has a disposition that does not stray far from some particular point on that spectrum; that this disposition appears early in life, and may very well... Read More
Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic, by Michael Scammell
Coming face to face with one's favorite author, Arthur Koestler warned an admirer in 1975, is "a bit like having a wonderful meal of goose liver and then meeting the goose." Something similar applies to reading a really thorough biography of a writer one has long admired. Michael Scammell's new biography of Koestler was ten... Read More
Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, by Eric Kaufmann
Did you know that Osama bin Laden has twenty-five children? And that his Dad had fifty-four? (Osama seems to be number 17.) Bin Laden Sr. was careful never to have more than four wives at a time, though, divorcing older wives in order to marry younger ones, thus staying within the proper Koranic bounds. Like... Read More
————————— 1. Gulliver's Travels By Jonathan Swift 1726 One component of curmudgeonliness is the Cold Eye, seeing humanity plain. Jonathan Swift saw us rather too plain. The "savage indignation" he wrote of in his own epitaph was rooted in the disgust, physical and moral, he felt toward people. His famous satire Gulliver's Travels — about... Read More
One of my National Review colleagues recently declared himself "flummoxed by the fact that Two and a Half Men is the top sitcom in America." If any TakiMag readers are in a similar case, let me try to deflummox you. T&aHM has been running on CBS since the fall of 2003. It is the brainchild... Read More
Intellectuals and Society, by Thomas Sowell
It is a commonplace observation that very smart people often have no sense. Writers since Aristophanes have been making sport of their intellectual superiors. Jonathan Swift had the academicians of Lagado striving to extract sunbeams from cucumbers. Twenty years ago Paul Johnson wrote a fine book titled Intellectuals, in which he tossed and gored such... Read More
Encounters, by Paul Gottfried
What is modern American conservatism? "A movement without a social core," complains one of its more penetrating observers, "that latches on to temporarily usable constituencies … contrived … a media phenomenon …" He goes on: That's the voice of intellectual historian Paul Gottfried, from his 2007 book Conservatism in America. It is also, of course,... Read More
Samuel Johnson: The Struggle, by Jeffrey Meyers
Samuel Johnson: A Biography, by...
English writer, opera producer, and all-round high-culture panjandrum Jonathan Miller once scoffed at his fellow countrymen for their refusal to take deep thinking seriously. An Englishman's idea of an intellectual, Miller sniggered, was Samuel Johnson. (Asked to name someone he considered an intellectual, Miller offered Boileau.) This low opinion of Johnson is widely shared amongst... Read More
The great fifteenth-century treatise on witchcraft Malleus Maleficarum ("Hammer of the Witches") includes a lengthy discussion of the question: "Is it a Catholic view to maintain that witches can infect the minds of men with an inordinate love of strange women, and so inflame their hearts that by no shame or punishment, by no words... Read More
The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power, by Gene Healy...
It's been a sad few months for thoughtful conservatives. Beginning in late spring of 2007 with two broad, varied rafts of capable candidates for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations, we have somehow ended up with Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain. As often before — more often than not in presidential elections, it... Read More
Religion of Peace? — Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn't, by Robert Spencer
A friend of mine who had a thoroughly Roman Catholic education at the hands of the Christian Brothers tells me that the religious component of that education consisted largely of memorizing arguments with which to confound atheists, agnostics, and Protestants. Robert Spencer is not, strictly speaking, a Roman Catholic, though I believe his church is... Read More
Saturday Night Fever
For proponents of the theory that everything in the world exists for some good reason, disco music must present a conundrum. What higher purpose could possibly be served by this vapid, thrumping, affectless sound, dragging in its wake a subculture of narcissism, pill-popping, promiscuity both straight and gay, cheesy light shows, and the worst male... Read More
Brave New World
This year marks the 75th birthday of Aldous Huxley's novel Brave New World, first published in February 1932. That novel became one of the most discussed works of literature of the 20th century. Its title, which Huxley took from Shakespeare's play The Tempest, has passed into the language — from Huxley, not from Shakespeare —... Read More
Charles Kingsley
My mother, when vexed by some family misfortune, was wont to console herself by murmuring: "Men must work, and women must weep, and the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep." It never occurred to me, until I was fully grown, to seek out the original of those words. They come from a poem, "The... Read More
Popular poetry is no longer written. If a person, other than a salaried academic or the recent product of a university Eng. Lit. course, spontaneously quotes a line of poetry at you, the line is unlikely to be less than eighty years old. (In my experience, which to be sure is mostly with fellow conservatives,... Read More
Party of Death, by Ramesh Ponnuru
Can Right to Life (hereinafter RTL) fairly be called a cult? This is a point on which I cannot make up my mind. Some of the common characteristics of culthood are missing — the Führerprinzip, for example. On the other hand, RTL has the following things in common with every cult in the world: To... Read More
My secondary school, though public (in the American, not the British, sense) and day, not boarding, followed the wise English boarding-school tradition of leaving senior pupils alone a great deal to discover things for themselves. The school sat on the upper north slope of a river valley. The main school buildings were at the high... Read More
Samuel Beckett
Back, way back, in my early twenties, I was fascinated by the works of Samuel Beckett, the centenary of whose birth fell on April 13, last Thursday. The centenary has had considerable coverage. I read some of that coverage, and even contributed a couple of notes about Beckett to NRO's group blog, The Corner. Youthful... Read More
————————— Jules Verne (1828-1905) is conventionally regarded as the father of science fiction. Some literary historians will give you an argument here, asserting that sci-fi goes all the way back to the ancients (via, of course, Bacon's New Atlantis … ), with the boldest spirits even claiming Homer's Odyssey for the genre. That seems to... Read More
Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, by Jimmy Carter
It is the little things that stick in the mind, those transient items that show up on an inside-page paragraph of one's newspaper for a day or two, then vanish, forgotten by everyone else but oneself. Here is one of those oddities from the Carter years. In mid-September 1980 a Russian soldier sought refuge in... Read More
Talk to the Hand, by Lynne Truss
A stock character in the science-fiction stories of the 1950s was the lone telepath who went through life hearing the endless babble of other people's thoughts. Sometimes the telepath could shut off the din by an act of will. In those stories where he could not, I always found myself wondering: Wouldn't he go crazy... Read More
Break, Blow, Burn, by Camille Paglia
What is the use of writing about books?" asked America's greatest poet, "excepting so far as to give information to those who cannot get the books themselves?" I had better confess up front that I am of the same mind as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and that what goes for books in general goes twice over... Read More
George Crabbe: An English Life, by Neil Powell
George Crabbe was a minor poet, floruit the couple of decades on each side of 1800. He made most of his living as a country clergyman. He published nothing but verse, took no part in public affairs, and had no interest in science, philosophy, art or music. He seems not to have noticed the Napoleonic... Read More
In Defense of Sentimentality, by Robert C. Solomon
Robert Solomon is a Professor of Philosophy ("and Business" — go figure) in the University of Texas at Austin. His particular beat is the philosophy of emotions ("and business ethics" — this must surely be some kind of brazen play for corporate funding). His latest book is a collection of eleven essays loosely united by... Read More
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, by Sam Harris
There is a certain kind of atheist — we have all met him — who is not merely indifferent to organized religion, or puzzled by it, or scornful of it, but who is inflamed to purple rage by the contemplation of it. My own father was of this kidney. He would open conversations with perfect... Read More
W.B. Yeats: A Life — Vol. II: The Arch-Poet, by R.F. Foster
The other day I had lunch with Maureen Murphy of Hofstra, who knows a very great deal indeed about William Butler Yeats. I mentioned to her the question posed by my colleague Jeffrey Hart, in his own review of this book (National Review, 2/23/04): Was Yeats the greatest poet of the twentieth century? I said... Read More
The Right Nation, by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge
Before I get along with my review, let us just linger for a moment on this book's title, and on the names of the authors. The title I think we should blame on David Frum, author of, inter alia, books titled Dead Right, What's Right, and The Right Man; though possibly Frum was inspired by... Read More
Scouting for Boys, by Robert Baden-Powell
Robert Baden-Powell's book Scouting for Boys, first published in 1908, was a world-wide best-seller for several decades thereafter. In his 1990 biography of the Chief Scout, Tim Jeal says that this book "has probably sold more copies than any other title during the twentieth century with the exception of the Bible." Sales did not begin... Read More
Falun Gong: The End of Days, by Maria Hsia Chang
Eccentric religious sects present a nontrivial problem even for open societies. The early history of the Mormon Church illustrates this; so, more recently, have the People's Temple, Heaven's Gate, and Branch Davidian episodes. Issues of public health and the welfare of minors may arise. So may matters of straightforward criminality: the black-racist Nation of Yahweh... Read More
Eagle Dreams, by Stephen J. Bodio
This is a very striking and unusual book, sufficiently so that I imagine the people responsible for awarding it a Dewey Decimal number, in order to properly shelve it in libraries, must have engaged in some head-scratching. Is Eagle Dreams sport, travel, or zoology? You will have to make up your own mind. I have... Read More
Metaphysics is out of fashion. There is, as department-store sales assistants say, not much call for it nowadays. The word "metaphysics" does not even occur in the index of the current best-seller about human nature, Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate, nor does Prof. Pinker's text betray any interest in the topic. Most of us, if... Read More
The Eagle's Shadow, by Mark Hertsgaard
We all have our political preferences. According to Professor Steven Pinker, those preferences are largely genetic in origin, and therefore pretty much immune to fundamental change. Even when a person switches party allegiance, his broad outlook remains the same. Winston Churchill went from being a romantic Tory imperialist to being a romantic Whig imperialist (and... Read More
The Middle of Everywhere: The World's Refugees Come to Our Town, by Mary Pipher
I approached this book with the maximum possible amount of ill will. Mary Pipher, Ph.D. — that's how she is billed on the book's back flap — is the author of Reviving Ophelia, the 1994 classic of victimology in which adolescent girls were revealed to be groaning with pain under the iron heel of patriarchal... Read More
What's So Great About America, by Dinesh D'Souza
I have a problem with anti-Americanism. Not just an emotional problem, though I have that too, but an intellectual problem. I mean, I don't get it. America — what's not to like? I can't even claim the interesting status of a reformed anti-American; I've always liked this country and her people, since I first made... Read More
Dao De Jing: The Book of the Way, By Laozi
The connection between simple-life quietism and the political Left has often been noted. Orwell, in his diatribes against the armchair progressives he so despised, never failed to include, along with Trotskyite poets, pamphleteering pacifists and "pink" sodomites, the legions of sandal-wearing, vegetarian, teetotaling tree-huggers he knew so well from Independent Labour Party summer schools. Among... Read More
Sinclair Lewis
I want to make a modest conservative claim on Sinclair Lewis. What, that Sinclair Lewis? The one who held up small-town America to ridicule in Main Street? Who mocked the vapid pally boosterism of provincial businessmen in Babbitt, and the spiritual claims of canting preachers in Elmer Gantry? The one who poured scorn on all... Read More
Life at the Bottom, by Theodore Dalrymple
There is an odd conservatism in the common perceptions of life in other lands. I grew up among English people who still thought of France — a rather stuffy and puritanical country in the 1960s — in terms of the "Gay Paree" of seventy years earlier, a place of unbridled license and monocled boulevardiers swilling... Read More
Against the Idols of the Age, by David Stove
I took my first degree in Mathematics from a respectable English university. There was none of this American nonsense about majors and minors: we did three straight years of unadulterated math, math and math. In our third year, though, we were permitted to choose some electives from within the field of math. One of them,... Read More
How fortunate we are! After eighty-five years of assorted errors and miseries, the human race has emerged into sunlit uplands. There is no major war, nor any visible prospect of any. Utopian socialism, the principal motive for revolutions throughout the industrial age, has been discredited beyond hope of revival. There is hardly a city anywhere... Read More
Patrick O'Brian, by Dean King
Though he wrote, edited or translated more than forty books altogether, Patrick O'Brian's fame rests on twenty historical novels about the Royal Navy, set in the time of the wars against Napoleon. The novels all feature the bluff, competent sea captain Jack Aubrey and his friend and ship's surgeon, the brilliant but eccentric Stephen Maturin.... Read More
Category Classics
Confederate Flag Day, State Capitol, Raleigh, N.C. -- March 3, 2007
The sources of America’s immigration problems—and a possible solution
An alliance of pro-immigrant Democrats and anti-immigration Republicans could finally fix our broken system
Not What Tom Jefferson Had in Mind