Websites and social media accounts are evanescent things, prone to disappearing in an eyeblink, leaving no trace of their existence. Some are so obviously a product of their moment that it’s hard to imagine them having any longevity. Nonetheless, just as we can enjoy the beauty of the wild violets during their brief appearance on spring lawns, we can appreciate a Twitter account devoted to critiquing the credibility of bookcases. (You may be aware that, in this age of enforced video interaction, it has become a “thing” to sit in front of a bookshelf during your calls, to help lend an air of erudition and gravitas.) So allow me to introduce you to Bookcase Credibility. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Somehow, I’ve failed to regularly keep up with Lesley Chamberlain’s blog in the last couple of years, which is why I’m tardy in bringing her appreciation of the late Roger Scruton to your attention. I trust you won’t hold it against me.
Well, this is interesting. This evening, I stumbled across a site I’ve never seen before, which— oh, I’ll just get out of the way and let them explain it:
After Montaigne—a collection of twenty-four new personal essays intended as tribute— aims to correct this collective lapse of memory and introduce modern readers and writers to their stylistic forebear.
Though it’s been over four hundred years since he began writing his essays, Montaigne’s writing is still fresh, and his use of the form as a means of self-exploration in the world around him reads as innovative—even by modern standards. He is, simply put, the writer to whom all essayists are indebted. Each contributor has chosen one of Montaigne’s 107 essays and has written his/her own essay of the same title and on the same theme, using a quote from Montaigne’s essay as an epigraph. The overall effect is akin to a covers album, with each writer offering his or her own interpretation and stylistic verve to Montaigne’s themes in ways that both reinforce and challenge the French writer’s prose, ideas, and forms. Featuring a who’s who of contemporary essayists, After Montaigne offers a startling engagement with Montaigne and the essay form while also pointing the way to the genre’s potential new directions.
…This site contains all 107 of Montaigne’s essays, in Charles Cotton’s 1685 translation (John Florio produced the first English translation, in 1605, and several other twentieth-century translators have made their attempts at rendering Montaigne’s mind in English as well). We hope that you will enjoy spending time with this quirky sixteenth-century Frenchman, that by reading his essays you will find yourself pondering timeless ideas, and that in reading his essays, you will begin to create your own essays.
I have recently learned of two great sites which may also be of interest to you: SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE (“Are you in search of the ‘wisdom’ of the ancients, but don’t know where to begin? Are you looking for more than the locus classicus–do you long for the odd and the obscure as well? Then you’ve come to the right place!”), and Haggard Hawks (“Strange words, etymology & language facts”), whose Twitter feed is more frequently updated than the blog itself. Give them both a try.
Sunday and Monday were glorious — unseasonably cool temperatures in the 60s, overcast and drizzly. We spent the days hiking in the national park. Now we’ve got the first truly scorching weather of the summer, perfect for spending time in the pool. Reading about stupid people saying stupid things online has taken a reduced role as a consequence. So, until I feel truly inspired to write something, here’s some links that might be worth your time.
Andrew Orlowski, “The Great Brain Scandal”
Yeah, I have to say, this doesn’t sound all that outlandish to me anymore.
Helen Andrews, “The New Ruling Class”
Lawrence Glickman, “Everyone Was a Liberal”
Zach Weinersmith imagines Nietzschean trucks (really, though, it’s unfair to single out any one of his comics; you should just read them daily).
Ben Sixsmith on the tiresome contrarianism of Spiked! magazine. I find them equally exasperating and stimulating, but on balance, I’m glad they exist in the media landscape.
Ed Krayewski on guns, or rather, to be specific, on empty political grandstanding, due process, and the amazing way in which people who can recite from memory a hundred reasons why the War on Drugs has been a catastrophic failure and a moral travesty can still convince themselves that a War on Guns would somehow avoid the same problems.
Sonny Bunch on “artisanship”, i.e. the culture war commissars.
Working hard. Traveling far. Very tired. Here’s links. Nothing to add. Good articles. You read. I rest now.
• Lionel Shriver, “Gender — Good for Nothing“
• Arnold Kling, “Cultural Intelligence“
• Russell Jacoby, “Academe is Overrun by Liberals. So What?“
• Yohan John, “Persons All the Way Down“
• John McWhorter, “When Slogans Replace Arguments“
Donald Trump is America’s collective rape fantasy. Deep down, they fully expect to settle down and spend the next several years having perfunctory relations with Hillary, but it gives them such an illicit thrill to imagine being ravished by that beastly orange man with his stubby little hands. I’m not judging anyone’s kinks here, but it is getting a little boring having to hear you moan about it countless times each day. Try a little harder to keep it private, hmm?
I read Thomas Chatterton Williams’s memoir, Losing My Cool, last summer and found it engrossing. I recommend checking it out, but until you do, here’s a couple more recent articles from him worth reading. One, on everybody’s least favorite buzzword, privilege:
What is more harmful — and pervasive in these disillusioned last days of the first black presidency — are the ways in which left-leaning discussions now share assumptions with the worst conservative and even white supremacist ideology. Whether put forth by racists or anti-racists, the insistence that, as James Baldwin noted, it is a person’s “categorization alone which is real and which cannot be transcended,” is oppressive. When genuinely anti-racist views lead us to the same practical conclusions an open bigot would embrace — that black life is miserable compared with white life — we give white people too much credit and strengthen the status quo.
The false choice between acknowledging the repugnant history of racism that informs the present, and the wish to accept the reality that a growing number of black people may nonetheless experience the freedom to define ourselves, is infantilizing. What this current moment of protest and awakening must lead us to, if it is to lead us anywhere, is a dignified means of fully inhabiting our ever more complicated identities.
It’s a strange and ironic double diminishment: first to feel oneself aggrieved, and then to conclude that the best response is to bask in fragility and retreat into an artificially indulgent social context. There is something utterly dehumanizing about being fit to a demographic profile, reduced to the sex or color of a body. While I may not be able to control how I look or how others perceive me, I control absolutely the ways I perceive myself. The idea that minorities need bubbles betrays an internalized sense of inferiority. When we concede public space as inherently hostile instead of deliberately claiming it as our own — as Martin Luther King Jr. and so many others did in the Sixties, as the gay-rights movement did more recently — we perpetuate and reinforce some of the very biases we seek to counteract.
Just as troubling, the growing power and influence of the appeal to vulnerability transforms it from a strictly defensive (if ineffective) tool into an increasingly potent method of intimidation that can silence even meaningful disagreement.
Though there are individual exceptions, the absence of Beard is usually a sign of physical and moral weakness; and in degenerate tribes wholly without, or very deficient, there is a conscious want of manly dignity, and contentedness with a low physical, moral, and intellectual condition. Such tribes have to be sought for by the physiologist and ethnologist; the historian is never called upon to do honor to their deeds.
— Thomas S. Gowing, The Philosophy of Beards