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Back of the Book

In the Arts & Letters section of the latest TAC, we have three first-rate reviews, which should appeal to readers of widely differing tastes.

First, historian Patrick Allitt reviews John Lukacs’s new memoir, Last Rites. Allitt, author of Catholic Intellectuals and Conservative Politics in America, 1950-1985 and a leading authority on Lukacs, delivers an appreciative, though not uncritical, assessment of the book. It’s a masterful review and a must read for anyone interested in American conservative historiography.

Next comes a brilliant review-essay by Richard Gamble examining two books about Wilsonian foreign policy: The Crisis of American Foreign Policy: Wilsonianism in the Twenty-first Century by G. John Ikenberry, Thomas J. Knock, Anne-Marie Slaughter, and Tony Smith and What the World Should Be: Woodrow Wilson and the Crafting of a Faith-Based Foreign Policy by Malcolm D. Magee. Gamble succeeds in tying Wilson’s foreign-policy ambitions to those of Obama, exploring the evangelical instincts of the American liberal internationalist tradition. Hard to do justice to Gamble’s work here, but highly, highly recommended.

Lastly, new-successionist champion Kirkpatrick Sale takes a spirited and entertaining look at militia-woman Carolyn Chute’s latest novel, The School on Heart’s Content Road . I won’t bother with a bland prĂ©cis. Just look at the picture of Chute below if you want a flavor.


Non-subscribers should be able to read the Gamble review online shortly. But if you want to read all three now, why not do the honorable thing and get a subscription? Sixteen issues for $19.95 is a bargain if ever there was one. Sign up, or Carolyn Chute will get you.

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#1 Comment By MattSwartz On February 18, 2009 @ 7:45 pm

I’ve long been planning to subscribe to TAC, and the back pages are one pf the biggest reasons. The rest of the magazine is good and worth reading, I find, but I can get similar stuff online for nothing.

Not so with the book reviews.

Those alone are worth the price of admission, as they open up a different world to the reader in a way that the current events articles almost cannot, since they’re so, well, current.

Unless I buy the magazine, I am simply not going to be able to read anything about urban development, or Maraliyn Robinson’s new novel, or sustainable agriculture that is written from a conservative perspective. It’s as simple as that, and then Bill Kaufman on the back page is just gravy.

#2 Comment By malcolm On February 19, 2009 @ 2:45 pm

i have been a long time subscriber (back when it was all newsprint) and these sections (arts & letters) are often the most insightful. I also have found the social commentary ahead of its time and often echoed in ‘msm’ in a water down version a few years later.

#3 Comment By R J Stove On February 22, 2009 @ 7:32 pm

I have the privilege of appearing myself in TAC‘s back pages sometimes. But even if I didn’t, I would still find its back pages particularly fascinating, because of the clear contrast they furnish with newspapers’ predominant ineptitude in the area of literary comment.

Most newspapers – the NYT remains a partial exception, as does Britain’s Telegraph – can no longer have decent book coverage; they’re committed to pleasing all (thus pleasing none) and to pretending that a worthwhile book can be adequately summed up in 200 words. Whereas TAC (along with Chronicles, Modern Age, and, to be fair, The New Republic) can focus on specific books that will still be, in most cases, worth reading – and worth reading about – 10 years from now.