Recent links of note:
“The God That Failed”
Sean Trende, RealClear Politics
Amidst the flurry of finger-pointing that overcomes the losing party after a failed presidential campaign, one can usually find a number of thoughtful reflections from commentators who are keen to begin the rebuilding process. Writing for RealClear Politics, the political analyst Sean Trende offered one such reflection this week in an essay that laid to rest the idea of the “emerging Democratic majority.” The theory of immanent, permanent Democratic Party governance—which Trende recalls having challenged for years to the ridicule of its proponents—suggested that ever-swelling masses of minority and young voters would brace their party’s grip on the presidency. Trende picks apart that evidently failed thesis first with his own more honest demographic analysis, but ultimately with an intellectual case for skepticism about all self-serving grand theories.
“Willa Cather’s Answer to Exile”
Timothy P. Schilling, First Things
Sigmund Freud proposed that the work of the artist is to imagine an ideal for which all men yearn, and to recreate some part of that fantasy within the mundane world that we actually inhabit. Willa Cather (writing in the same era as Freud) incorporated more of this type of “fantasy” into her prose than many authors of her day—though as Timothy P. Schilling points out in First Things, she would never have called it that. Schilling describes how Cather’s childhood in barren Nebraska trained her to notice the bits of transcendence in her life: not fanciful longings, but the palpable touch of God felt in the simple rhythms of frontier life. The debate between fans of Cather’s work like H. L. Mencken and critics like Edmund Wilson helps to crystalize a permanent rift in critical outlook about fiction: whether authors should resist the temptation depict fantasy in life or, like Cather, seek a language to describe those “fantastic” experiences which seem too real to ignore.
On the late Robert Vaughn, and the nature of celebrity and politics.