Therapeutic Superstition


Here is a heartbreaking — and, sadly, true — story of a man who was too much in tune with nature to be left alone and allowed to be happy. From First Things:

At any rate, the thing I want chiefly to emphasize about Reuben is that he was a remarkably happy man: harmless, kind, and always in good spirits. In fact, I do not think I have ever known anyone else who took such evident delight in the world. He told me he had felt himself surrounded at all times by friends, human and otherwise: A walk in the country for him was a visit to the companions of his childhood. He spoke of “creation” (he rarely used the word “nature,” it seems to me) as an essentially “amiable” reality if one approaches it correctly. He may have been one of the few truly happy souls I have known in my life.

Reuben’s fate reminds me of this little story.

Russell Kirk on Fantasy

Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk was a literary critic, historian, and political theorist. He passionately believed that literature was an essential part of one’s education, since it exposes students to “splendor and tragedy of the human condition, to constant moral insights, to the spectacle of human history, to love of community and country, to the achievements of right reason.”

Here are his reasons for reading and teaching fantasy, along with a few recommendations. From The Intellectual Conservative:

If young people are to begin to understand themselves, and to understand other people, and to know the laws which govern our nature, they ought to be encouraged to read allegory, fable, myth, and parable. All things begin and end in mystery. Out of tales of wonder comes awe—and the beginnings of philosophy. The images of fantasy move us lifelong. Sir Osbert Sitwell, when asked what lines of poetry had most moved him in all his life, replied candidly, “Froggie would a-wooing go, whether his mother would let him or no.”

So here are my fantastic recommendations—

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678-84)

William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1596-96)

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables (1851) or (perhaps preferably) The Marble Faun (1860)

Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped (1886) or one of his volumes of short stories

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962) or Dandelion Wine (1957) (Bradbury is something far better than an accomplished “science fiction writer;” he is a man of remarkable ethical insights and great power of style.)

Walter Scott, Old Mortality (1816) or The Heart of Midlothian (1818), (These are much more important romances than is Ivanhoe (1819), so commonly taught).

Select poems of Spenser, Burns, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Whittier, Longfellow, Chesterton, Kipling, Masefield, Yeats, Frost, and others—selected with and eye to the marvelous and the mysterious.

Apollo 11


Where were you when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon?

I remember that night well. I was in my second week working at my first job as a projectionist at WGHP-TV in High Point, North Carolina. Since we were on network feed all night, all I had to do was load our station ID slides and run a few commercials. In addition to me, there was the director and an engineer. That was the skeleton crew, and we were pretty well psyched all night. Nothing could have torn me away from the video monitor when Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar lander. The three of us stood motionless in that cramped control room full of racks of electronics and stared in total awe.

So — when’s the next bold adventure in space?

The Scots-Irish Rascals Who Made America


Here’s my review of Karen McCarthy’s The Other Irish, one of the books I read while researching my latest book. Who are “The Other Irish”? As McCarthy writes:

“They settled the frontier, intermarried with other migrants, imbued the national character with their own nature and values, and, arguably, became the most patriotic of all Americans. They provided American icons like Davy Crockett, literary giants from Mark Twain to Stephen King, American warriors from Sam Houston to George Patton. They invented NASCAR — the biggest spectator sport in America — and provided more than twenty presidents.”

My review is featured today at the Abbeville Institute.