August 27, 2004
Thought for the Day

"At the funeral, I reflected upon the infinite wretchedness of the artist's lot. So much work, talent and courage, and then everything is over. To be misunderstood, and then to be forgotten, such is the artist's fate. My friend Lagerborg champions the views of Freud, according to whom the artist uses art as a means to escape from neurosis. Creativity provides a compensation for the artist's inability to live life to the full. Well, this is merely a development of Wagner's opinion. Wagner contended that if we enjoyed life fully we would have no need of art. To my mind, they have it back to front. Of course I do not deny that the artist has many neurotic aspects. How could I, of all people, deny that? Certainly I am neurotic and frequently unhappy, but that is largely the consequence of being an artist rather than the cause. When we aim so high and fall short so frequently, how can that not induce neurosis? We are not tram conductors who seek only to punch holes in tickets and call out the stops correctly. Besides, my reply to Wagner is simple: how can a fully lived life fail to include one of its noblest pleasures, which is the appreciation of art?"

Julian Barnes, "The Silence"

August 18, 2004
On Books

The American Enterprise Online has published a new column of mine on books. I provide an update on the "salacious" new novel by Tom Wolfe and examine political books, then and now:

Modern conservatives are not much concerned with the thought of Edmund Burke or George Santayana, just as modern liberals don't waste much time on John Dewey or Thorstein Veblen. Take a look at the New York Times bestseller list, where political partisanship has devolved to the level of a catfight. Bush is mean and stupid; no, he's the best president ever. The GOP is evil incarnate; no, that would be the Democrats.

August 03, 2004
On Books

The American Enterprise Online has published another column of mine on books. I review Gertrude Himmelfarb's latest, The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments, which will be released later this month:

Everyone knows the Enlightenment was the Age of Reason. Such eighteenth-century French philosophes as Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau proclaimed the primacy of reason over religion, and heralded a new age of liberty and progress, free of sentiment.

Gertrude Himmelfarb audaciously seeks to demolish, or at least dent, that received wisdom...

Read on for that and news of upcoming novels by two American realists, Tom Wolfe and Jessica Cutler.