January 24, 2008

As you read this, I will be shuffling through a series of planes, trains and automobiles from the glittering, patriotic sprawl of Dallas, Texas to the involuted warrens of once-pagan, then-papal, now neo-pagan Rome. Once I’m there, I will be tagging along for the next few months on a series of daily lecture tours in the churches, galleries, catacombs and other timeless sites of Rome—conducted by a brilliant colleague of mine at Thomas More College, Dr. Paul Connell. Since I have none of his erudition, I will leave the lecturing to him, as he inculcates in a cadre of lucky TMC sophomores an understanding of art history and theology through the ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and baroque artworks of Rome. I might also make a stop at those grim monuments to nationalism, the Vittore Emmanuele memorial (which Romans call “the giant typewriter”) and Mussolini’s grandiose (and occasionally farcical) EUR. Now, I’m not one to sneer at every novel written by a Commie or every structure built by a fascist; some of the Duce’s legacies are really quite striking—but that owes little to his state-worshiping, warmongering ideology, and a great deal to the fact that he happened to rule during the last period of decent architecture and design in the West, when Art Deco combined the best of what was traditional in European art (a big burst of Egyptian influence, thanks to the then-recent discovery of King Tut’s tomb) with modern motifs and techniques that had not yet been uglified by Bauhaus ideology and corporate parsimony. (Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House is still unmatched in its description of how two materialist systems apparently at odds, Marxism and corporate capitalism, cooperated from the 1950s on to produce thousands of interchangeably hideous, dehumanizing buildings.)

But I aim to spend most of my touring time in churches. I’ve never been to Rome, or most of Europe (my Texan lady insists that’s why I’m such a Europhile). And just now I’m in transit, blessedly out of touch with the grim news streaming in from the Republican primaries. So if you’ll forgive me, this weekend’s blog will consist of a miscellany of reading recommendations, pointers to some of the better online resources I know, whose acquaintance the reader might enjoy making:

Andrew Cusack. I joined this brilliant young writer for several rounds of monastic beers in New York City this December, along with Takimag’s esteemed Frank Purcell, as we said farewell to F.J. Sarto (who was just then leaving town) and joined F.J. in several stanzas of the Kaiserlied. (It didn’t turn a single head in New York City; let’s see what happens in Vienna!) Cusack’s wonderfully crafted and lavishly illustrated blog includes, most recently, a moving account (with video) of the funeral of Archduke Carl Ludwig (1918-2007)—the son of an emperor who will soon be a saint—and a U.S. Army Veteran, who fought at Normandy. How fitting that an heir to the old order of civilized Europe helped fight to free it from one new variety of pagan barbarism. (It wasn’t his fault that another, more insidious strain was waiting in the wings.)

Chiesa Espresso. Operated by the well-connected, thoughtful, gossipy Vatican journalist Sandro Magister, this site does an excellent job of revealing the infighting that’s still occurring within the ranks of Catholic bishops—as the rear-guard that still believes Vatican II represented a new “super-dogma” that took everything the Church taught before 1962 and multiplied it by a big fat zero struggles against a pope who long ago out-thought them, and has consistently out-fought them.

What’s Wrong with the World? This site combines the talents of the fine essayist Paul Cella with those of several other contributors, covering topics from contemporary politics and homeschooling to Chestertonian distributism and the excesses committed around the world in the name of contemporary Jihad. (As my old friend, the eminent Robert Spencer proves, one CAN notice such things without deciding to start ill-considered wars. There’s a large middle ground between jingoism and dhimmitude.) Daniel Larison, now a Takimag blogger, also contributes.

Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Now, you might call me venal for praising the Web site of an organization which employs me. But what other “movement” conservative organization would publish (among dozens of other excellent books each year) titles such as The Essential Russell Kirk, The Solzshenitsyn Reader, and a (pro-tonal) Student’s Guide to Music History (by Takimag’s own R.J. Stove)? Other worthy titles include Allan Carlson’s Third Ways: How Bulgarian Greens, Swedish Housewives, and Beer-Swilling Englishmen Created Family-Centered Economies”€”And Why They Disappeared, and Eduardo Velazquez’s intriguing A Consumer’s Guide to the Apocalypse?  Fans (like me) of Justin Raimondo will be happy to learn that ISI is bringing back into a print an updated edition of his classic Reclaiming the American Right. All in all, ISI Books is doing the kind of cultural work that Regnery Publishing used to do. Best of all, ISI’s site gives you access to decades of first rate journals like Intercollegiate Review and Modern Age, which you can read online gratis, and hundreds of lectures by such giants as Wendell Berry, M.E. Bradford, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Thomas Molnar. It’s a glimpse into a past when “conservative” denoted a good deal more than military adventurism.

Brussels Journal. In case you don’t pay attention to the carefully chosen News Feeds on our home page, one of the best is this site, maintained by doughty Flemish conservative Paul Belien—who chronicles the outrages of Islamists, tyrannical EUroacrats, and other enemies of our Mother Continent. Of late, he has been persecuted both by the Belgian government and the witch-hunting neocons over at Little Green Fairies. His articles are consistently informative (and therefore alarming) and he deserve a wider readership in his lonely crusade for sanity in the land famous only for moules frites, pedophile rings, and the Mannekin Pis. Somehow it’s fitting that the shrine of St. Dymphna (patroness of the mad) resides in Belgium.

I’ll write next from a Wi-Fi cafe in Trastevere, in between conferences with students about Hawthorne’s The Marble Faun and Gibbon’s meditations on the ruins of Rome. Till then, ciao amici!


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