Quote of The Week

“Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity.”




If a web site can ever be described as old-fashioned, this one would fit the description. There are a lot of words, but no tweets, beeps, squeaks, squawks, or comical videos. Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Telegram, Snapchat and all the rest of what I call the anti-social media do not appear on these pages. Be warned, there are sometimes complete sentences here.

In this sense it is a nineteenth or even an eighteenth century artifact, concerned with such arcane matters as language and ideas, whimsical humor and (sometimes) serious reflections – an electronic hangover from another age.

Reading is a lost cause, but those are the causes I love. My whole life has been dedicated to them: book selling, print publishing, face-to-face teaching, radio, personal essays, and classical music. They are all doomed, and that’s why I love them. At a certain age, I find, we not only want to live in the past, we have to live in the past because it is the only place where we feel even slightly at home. Added to that, for people of my age the future is so short that it is scarcely worth worrying about. The past is the place to be.

Every week or two you will find here a ‘Featured Essay’ about almost any subject from my vast archive. Under the heading ‘Writing Life’ are thoughts about some aspect of this antique occupation.

A new addition from September 2019 is the ‘Rediscoveries’ page which will feature authors and fragments of writing that I have “rediscovered” by searching the odd corners and hidden places on my own dusty bookshelves, or that have been recalled to mind by something I have read, or by one of my clever friends. The first of these rediscoveries introduces the remarkable teacher and critic Richard Mitchell, known as “The Underground Grammarian.” There’s nobody like him. A new posting this week returns to contemplate a 1965 study of rural life by Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost. Please let me know if you find these interesting and if you have any rediscoveries of your own to suggest.

A vulgar commercial catalog of my books appears under Books and Audio, and a brand new book appears this week. Dark Matters: Delusions, illusions, lost causes and absurdities in modern America is available for the first time – a collection of long essays on politics, religion, the pursuit of happiness, and just about everything.

Present and future lectures etc. are listed under ‘Courses and Events’ and (in season) ‘Music.’ My weekly public radio essays can be read and heard at www.wshu.org and heard again on the podcast “A Few Well-Chosen Words.”

Topics of the Week

The Featured Essay: “Table Manners” is an old-fashioned complaint about the rise of ‘casual eating’ and the decline of sociability.

Writing Life: “Too Many Books?” revisits a walk through a small English town full of bookstores.


All my broadcasts are now available as podcasts on iTunes and Google. Just enter my name in the Search box.