Opening Day

Featured image Poems Ancient and Modern is a new Substack site run by, among others, South Dakota’s leading man of letters, Jody Bottum. I subscribe to it, even though I am not much of a poetry lover, and have found it entertaining and illuminating. Poems Ancient and Modern features a new poem, with commentary, every day. In honor of Opening Day, yesterday’s poem was “Casey at the Bat,” which, as Jody points »

An odor of mendacity

Featured image At page 16 of his opinion ruling on the conflict of interest issues raised by defendants’ in the Georgia “conspiracy so immense” prosecution brought by Fani Willis, Judge McAfee states that “an odor of mendacity remains.” He is referring to the acrid smell left by the testimony of Willis and her former lover, Special Assistant District Attorney Nathan Wade. I believe that Judge McAfee is alluding to Big Daddy’s classic »

Deader Than a Doornail

Featured image A long time ago, in a freshman English class, my professor realized that no one in the class understood the significance of the phrase “ecce homo.” He was taken aback for a moment, and then said: “Oh well. The culture is dead.” I was shaken by that at the time, but if classical cultural was dead decades ago, modern culture, such as it was, is following rapidly in its wake. »

Who Killed English Literature?

Featured image English majors are fast disappearing from our colleges and universities, and with good reason. Here’s a current summer course offering from Johns Hopkins University: Climate Fiction and Capitalist Accumulation – AS.060.186 This course will examine the relationship between capitalist accumulation, the climate crisis, and contemporary climate fiction. What is capitalist accumulation? How has this process led to the contemporary climate crisis? What ideas constitute its ideological apparatus? How do contemporary »

Fourteen Ways to Start an Argument In a Bar

Featured image The news is doing nothing for me today, so here is something I have done once or twice before. The following are 14 propositions that I believe to be true. Or at least, I think I do. Each is intended to be fodder for disagreement. Feel free to say “Amen, brother” or “You can’t be serious” in the comments. If this gets a good reception, maybe next time I will »

A tardy salute to Marianne Mantell

Featured image I had never heard of Marianne Roney Mantell before learning of her death in James R. Hagerty’s fantastic Wall Street Journal obituary. Mrs. Mantell started out struggling to make a living in the early 1950s by writing liner notes for record albums and translating opera libretti. Hagerty continues her story: Men who ran record companies often asked her for ideas about what they should record—but rejected all of her suggestions. »

MS. found in a bottle

Featured image I take it there is no news advancing the Biden classified documents matter today. Assuming our readers were intimately familiar with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, I may have mystified some by adapting the title of Edgar Allan Poe’s fantastic story “MS. Found In a Bottle” for several of my posts on the Biden matter. (“MS.” is an abbreviation of “manuscript.”) Published by Baltimore’s Saturday Visiter newspaper on October »

A Black Victor Hugo?

Featured image A controversy has erupted in France over the renovation of a statue of novelist Victor Hugo that portrays him as a black man. The New York Times, always quick to jump on any racial angle, is on the case. And Steve Sailer has an excellent post that pulls it all together. First, the controversy, as described by the Times: The statue of Victor Hugo has loomed outside the city hall »

Woke ballet at Princeton, Part Three

Featured image The Princeton University Ballet, a student-run ballet company, has gone full woke. So has Princeton’s EDI in the Arts Circuit, which apparently is tied to the University’s administration. Responding to my first post on the subject, a friend called my attention to this passage from Kurt Vonnegut’s 1961 short story “Harris Bergeron.”: THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. »

Orwell to go Orwellian?

Featured image I remember when 1984 rolled around, with the Cold War still going in high gear (in fact higher than ever after Reagan correctly called the Soviet Union “an evil empire”), and it was natural that the literary world would mark the occasion with a callback to George Orwell’s 1984. The anti-anti-Communist left at the time labored mightily to downplay or distract from Orwell’s anti-Communist message, offering convoluted takes about how »

Barren Indeed

Featured image I’m a regular reader of Barron’s Magazine, because it’s one of the better financial publications around, though they have been going a bit wobbly lately on climate change and other corporate wokery. But then there’s Barren Magazine, a tiny literary magazine I never heard of that specializes in what it calls “introspective lit.” Their “About” page reassures is that they are on the side of the true and the good: »

Locked down with Shakespeare

Featured image Paul Cantor is Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English at the University of Virginia and author of Shakespeare’s Roman Trilogy: The Twilight of the Ancient World. He is also a brilliant student of American popular culture, as documented in three books that compile his essays on the subject. Professor Cantor is the author, most recently, of the Modern Age essay/review “Shakespeare and classical antiquity,” just posted by the Intercollegiate Studies »

Jeffrey Hart: An appreciation

Featured image Steve Hayward writes this morning to convey the sad news that former Dartmouth English professor Jeffrey Hart has died. The news comes via Professor Hart’s National Review colleague Jay Nordlinger, who writes: “He was one of the brightest, most learned men I ever knew. Nationally, he was known for his political writing (and his tennis commentary!). But he is also a legendary professor of English. A rara avis.” Professor Hart »

Bigotry on the Prairie?

Featured image Today’s Liberal Outrage is the American Library Association’s announcement that it is renaming the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, which is given annually to the author of an outstanding children’s book: A division of the American Library Association voted unanimously Saturday to strip Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name from a major children’s literature award over concerns about how the author referred to Native Americans and blacks. It’s been a long time since »

The Volunteer Auxiliary Thought Police

Featured image That’s what Steve Sailer calls them, only they aren’t volunteers anymore. They are asking to be paid. Who are they? Members of Politically Approved Minority Groups who offer to read novels in manuscript to identify any non-conforming elements. Sailer starts with an article in Slate: Is My Novel Offensive? How “sensitivity readers” are changing the publishing ecosystem—and raising new questions about what makes a great book. These advising angels—part fact-checkers, »

What Do Fanny Hill and King Lear Have In Common? [with comment by Paul]

Featured image Fanny Hill was the first pornographic novel written in English. It was authored by John Cleland (who, as far as I know, never wrote anything else) and published in 1748. Among other things, Fanny Hill is famous for the fact that it doesn’t contain any bad words. Pornographers were a lot more inventive in those days. Nevertheless, it was, in former centuries, one of the most frequently banned books. I »

The Yarbrough citation

Featured image Dealing in our own way with Obama’s long goodbye, John and I have drawn on the twisted catalog of Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks to ask: “How can I miss you when you won’t go away?” We won’t miss President Obama if he ever goes away, but the point remains. Professor Jean Yarbrough is Gary M. Pendy, Sr., Professor of Social Sciences and Professor of Government and Legal Studies »