‘The Brothers K’ as a Constellation in the Wise Child’s Sky

Go ahead, give your kids telescopes.

Consider what happens to people whose night skies are spangled with constellations like The Master of Hestviken, or Moby-Dick, or The Brothers Karamazov. These people Pevear and Volokhonsky, Pen Awardare hard to fool. They are also hard to enlist in pursuit of the trivial and ephemeral. It is as if we had given them a powerful telescope atop a high mountain, and shown them how to use it, and directed their attention to the Orion nebula, and once they had learned to do so and to love the beauty they found there, expected them to look at light bulbs on a marquee. Or, if not a telescope, Continue reading


Three-Sentence Takedown of The Handmaid’s Tale

With all the lethality and economy of a Kurosawa film, Anthony Esolen takes apart Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale:

Clichés are easy. So we bring up our children on clichés.

Everyone knows that men are beasts and that religious people are bigots. Run with those clichés and you have Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I might add that it’s a great book to assign to young people, if only for the imbecilic prose, in the poseur’s style of Thoughts Too Great for Complete Sentences.

Ten Ways To Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, 101-02

The Dunning-Kruger Effect

“Everywhere I go, I’m asked if the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best-seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”Flannery O'Connor cover art Occassional prose

-Flannery O’Connor,  Mystery and Manners

Those words are as true today (probably truer) as when Miss O’Connor first said them half a century ago. I am reminded of them whenever I pause to take stock of the publishing world: the proliferation of wildly successful pulp-fictions (or poorly disguised pornographies) due to undiscerning readers and financially motivated publishers, the hyper-proliferation of less successful pulp-fictions (and undisguised pornographies) due to the increasing ease of self-publication, etc. Surely some of the myriad of bad books are the result of greed, but I think you can see, especially in the crops of self-published work, that most of them are the result of something else, something that, for me, was not as easily definable…until now.

Dunning-KrugerO’Connor’s words came to mind again recently when I was introduced to the Dunning-Kruger Effect: “a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer Continue reading