Mark Lilla is always worth reading, even if he is not always convincing. His latest book makes a straightforward argument that can be reproduced in a syllogism: The Democratic Party is the only hope for America; identity politics is tearing the Democratic Party apart; therefore the country is imperiled by identity politics.
Anthony Esolen is well on the way to being America’s G.K. Chesterton (if more academic—Chesterton did not produce a widely admired translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy). Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture takes us on a wide-ranging tour of the failures of American culture, from our use of language to how we play, how we build buildings, how we run our schools. As the longtime literature professor tells us on the first page, “I shall decry the decay of civilization.”
Mark Lilla is a writer whose work is always interesting and yet increasingly frustrating. The topics he chooses to engage are unerringly the right ones, but his writing now seems hasty. The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction follows upon his The Reckless Mind and, one can presume from this effort, will be followed by The Scuttled Mind or some such. He has hit on a formula and is working it as best he can. This is a great shame, given how original and insightful he can be when honest with his readers and himself.
Persecution, and the fear of it, are the underlying theme of this year’s presidential election. You can see it everywhere.