First off, sorry for the blog slowdown. I’ve been traveling, and working at my second job, and when I haven’t been traveling and working at my second job, my wife has been traveling, which means I’ve got sole responsibility for the little one. All of which is great, except it leaves little time for writing.
Plus there’s the dissertation, which I have to finish at all costs this year or else. And on top of that, the semester starts this week, which means I’ve got to have some lesson plans in order for the first few classes.
Also, Ferguson has been dominating my thoughts, and I’m not sure how to write about that. This blog really has two notes, arguing and liking; I’m not good at writing anger or shame, at least not to the extent I need to put words to what I feel while watching tear gas streaming into crowds of black citizens on the streets of a Midwestern suburb.
But I will post more in the next couple of weeks. And as soon as I get into my semester routine, I’ll start two new long-form book review series, along the lines of what I did last school year with J. Budziszewski’s On the Meaning of Sex.
First, I’ll get into Robert R. Reilly’s Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior is Changing Everything. If you haven’t been paying attention, Reilly’s book has been The Book Of The Summer for the Catholic Right. Fr. John McCloskey, Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Fr. John Zuhlsdorf—all of them have praised the book. Reilly, who served under the Secretary of Defense in the Bush administration, has appeared on Ave Maria Radio and Relevant Radio (which, believe it or not, I listen to a lot while working at the ranch).
Here’s what Matthew J. Franck says about Making Gay Okay in his review at Public Discourse:
Among the ‘LGBT’ activists and their allies who have lately been so successful in transforming our culture’s understanding of love, marriage, and sexual integrity, Reilly’s book will be hated and denounced. It is likely that many of those who denounce the book most strongly will not actually read it. They will certainly not squarely confront or refute its arguments.
Oooh. Readers, that sounds like a challenge.
But I might be even more pumped to get into the second book, Anthony Esolen’s Defending Marriage: Twelve Arguments for Sanity.
Esolen is a literature professor, and I’m familiar with his writing on culture and sexuality, which ranges from anger-inducing to hey-that’s-kind-of-good. Here’s how Longenecker describes Defending Marriage:
We should not suppose that Professor Esolen does anything so banal as to go snooping for proof texts from Shakespeare or Milton. He does much more than that. He takes the reader into the mind and the world of Shakespeare, Milton, Twain, Tolkien and Spenser. He does not argue against homosexuality, but for a healthy, wholesome, innocent and natural approach to human sexuality. Esolen presents us with a vision of human sexuality, courtship, marriage, and romance which is timeless and poignantly alluring.
According to Longenecker, Esolen looks back into literature (Shakespeare, Milton, Twain, Tolkien, Spenser) and “conjures up a forgotten world where girls and boys were naturally attracted to one another and flirted and played together innocently. He helps us look back to a world where young men and women courted, stole a kiss, and kept themselves pure for their wedding day.”
Against this “forgotten” world, Longenecker says, Esolen will pose the sexual revolution, “with its tragic legacy of divorce, broken homes, battered and scattered fathers, predatory and prostituted females, the fractured family, ravished relationships, and a desiccated sexuality” that has “left us as wounded warriors wandering alone on a devastated cultural battlefield.”
Um, wow. THAT book sounds right up my alley. Remember when we puzzled over Budziszewski’s use of Dante and Beatrice as his ideal for married love? Remember when I got to pull out two of my favorite Sidney sonnets so we could look more carefully at historic notions of marriage, love, and sex? This sounds like a whole book’s worth of that, though I expect Esolen to be a savvy reader of the texts he handles. I can hardly wait.
I’m not sure how exactly I’m going to do these two reviews. Longenecker says the two books complement each other (yay!), so I’m thinking about reading the two books together, and posting a review of a chapter from both books each weeks. But that also sounds insanely ambitious, so I’ll probably end up reviewing them consecutively.
But the reviews are coming soon. Be ready!