Klavan On The Culture

Klavan On The Culture

Summer Reading From NRO

July 8th, 2015 - 11:16 am

The good folks at National Review Online asked me to contribute some ideas for summer reading. Here’s my response:

When I think of summer reading, I think of ragingly entertaining fiction, so if you want to go out and buy my own Werewolf Cop, I’ll understand, really.

Unfortunately for me, though, all the best books I’ve read so far this year have been serious non-fiction, and not particularly summery. Here they are:

Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar by Simon Sebag Montefiore. A look at the Soviet Union through the personal life of a mass-murdering psychopath and the people who loved him even as he murdered them. So powerful, it actually lowered my opinion of humankind! My wife asked me to stop reflecting on the book out loud because I was depressing her. So come on, this ought to make for a lovely day of beach reading for one and all!

Shame: How America’s Past Sins Have Polarized Our Country by Shelby Steele. Steele writes so well and thinks with so much humanity and compassion, he’s just a joy to read any time. Here he tells how his personal encounters with both racism and radicalism led him to embrace conservatism as the best way into the new age. I don’t always share his view of the 1960s, but I’m always interested to hear what he has to say.

John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman. I’m not much for Hollywood biographies but . . . John Wayne. And the book’s terrific, too. Eyman can’t quite comprehend Wayne’s conservatism, but for the most part he puts his prejudice aside and just brings the man to life. And Wayne comes across as a terrific guy, larger than life, vital, talented, modest, and kind. Eyman really understands movies and acting too. It’s a wonderful read.

The responses of the other contributors are here. And did I mention you should buy Werewolf Cop?  You should buy Werewolf Cop.

Me With Crowder

July 5th, 2015 - 8:20 am

On his weekly radio show/podcast, Steven Crowder and I discuss the important issues — like, if Spiderman identifies as a spider, does that make him a spider? (This is the off-the-air, uncensored version so there may be some language.)

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Second Kings, Chapter 6, contains one of my favorite Bible stories. The King of Aram (which was more or less Syria) is waging war against Israel. But every time he sets up an ambush, the prophet Elisha tips off the Israelites and they get away. Because Elisha is a prophet! So he knows what the Syrians are planning. Mightily ticked off, the Syrian king decides to take Elisha out. So he sends his army to surround the city of Dothan where Elisha is staying.

The next morning, Elisha’s servant steps outside, looks up and sees that the city is surrounded by Syrian horses and chariots. Panicked, he cries out to Elisha, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?”

The prophet answers calmly, “Don’t be afraid. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

He then prays that the servant’s eyes will be opened — and when the servant looks again, he sees that the hills are filled with horses and chariots of fire.

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of conservatives saying things like, “It’s over. The left has won. This is no longer America. I’m not even going to celebrate the Fourth of July this year.” I confess this disturbs me. I expect feminists to squeal like hysterical little girls. I expect Social Justice Warriors to act like small boys who pretend to be heroes against imaginary enemies then run away from actual danger.

I expect conservatives to act like men and women — men and women who understand they are part of a fight for liberty that began when Moses killed the Egyptian slavedriver and will not end until Jesus comes again.

Open your eyes. The hills are filled with chariots of fire. Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.

Happy Fourth of July.


The 7 Most Impressive Founding Fathers

When Sociologists Go Bad

July 1st, 2015 - 11:50 am

I just finished reading Alice Goffman‘s in-the-field study of Philadelphia’s black slums, On The Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. I recommend it highly. It’s a wonderful piece of reporting. It’s also nuts. It’s worth reading for both reasons.

Goffman — a slight, attractive white girl and the daughter of famous sociologist Erving Goffman — lived for six years in a place she calls Sixth Street in Philly. There she befriended various black drug dealers and gangsters and their girlfriends. Completely losing her objectivity along the way, she actually reached a point where she chauffeured one of these thugs around town while he, his gun on his lap, searched for a man he wanted to kill. She’s lucky he didn’t find him. I don’t think that would’ve been sociology exactly. More like felony murder.

Anyway, Goffman writes well and observes well. She brings these dysfunctional characters and their milieu thoroughly to life. Then she proceeds to explain to us that ”this book is… a close-up look at young men and women living in one poor and segregated Black community transformed by unprecedented levels of imprisonment and by the more hidden systems of policing and supervision that have accompanied them.” Or as they put it in the musical West Side Story:  They ain’t no delinquents, they’re misunderstood.

This is silliness, of course. My City Journal colleague Heather Mac Donald — herself one of the nation’s truly great reporters — takes Goffman’s view to pieces in this excellent article.

Goffman’s own material demolishes this thesis. On the Run documents a world of predation and law-of-the-jungle mores, riven with violence and betrayal. Far from being the hapless victims of random “legal entanglements”—Goffman’s euphemism for the foreseeable consequences of lawless behavior—her subjects create their own predicaments through deliberate involvement in crime.

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Should Prostitution Be Legal?

June 28th, 2015 - 8:31 am

Bill Whittle and I trade notes on hookers:

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JonesFest Shows How It’s Done

June 26th, 2015 - 8:29 am
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Every year on the second Saturday in June, Karen “Snakebite” Jones (@snakebitejones) and her family throw a music festival — the JonesFest — up in beautiful Santa Ynez. The festival attracts musicians and music lovers from all over the country.

This year, the festival’s 20th anniversary, Karen wrote me to tell me that my pamphlet “The Crisis in the Arts,” had had a major effect on how she conceived her mission to do “heavy damage to the idea that conservatives are bigoted crab-asses.” This is enormously gratifying to me, I confess.

Like most of the conservatives I know, I’m not looking for power over anyone. I’m looking only to take arms against the sea of government oppression that rises in human history as regularly as the tide, that tide that seeks to drown individual freedom in the name of some imagined higher righteousness.

The arts forge the conscience of our race. If the arts don’t speak for freedom — if the arts don’t speak for the individual — if the arts don’t serve as an antidote to the induced psychosis of identity politics — no election will matter in the long run. You can get my pamphlet here, but before you do, watch the JonesFest video, listen to the music, see how it’s done.



Another Nice Review for “Werewolf Cop”

June 24th, 2015 - 11:30 am


From Book Columnist and philosophy teacher Dan Barnett at the ChicoER, come these kind words about my new thriller novel Werewolf Cop:

“A violent, bloody exploration of supernatural evil that… I couldn’t put down. Here, in the midst of horror, the reader will find ‘mysteries, questions, and possibilities’ and will be shaken to the core.”

You can read the whole review here. And you can buy the book here.

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I wasn’t going to say anything about the murders in Charleston, South Carolina. The light of tragedy shines too bright. Speak a false word and it shows you as you really are. The politicians and commentators use the dead to push their narratives and agendas. In the light of tragedy, they look to me like gnarled gargoyles twisted by the hunger for power and by self love. The journalists search for words to express the depth of the killer’s depravity. We know they’re really saying, “This is what a good person I am. This is how much I hate evil.” In the light of tragedy, they look to me like pathetic beggars at the throne of Virtue. The rest of us? “Our hearts are with them. Our prayers are with them.” It’s fine, I know, but it’s easy compassion too, compassion without a price.

But I have to say a word of thanks to the families of the dead, the ones who went into the courtroom on Friday, who faced the man who shot their loved ones to death and forgave him.

“I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that He can change him and change your ways, so no matter what happens to you, you’ll be okay.” Anthony Thompson, husband of Myra.

The video above shows the scene.

These people have received God’s most terrible gift, the gift of suffering, the gift of his cross. I pray he never gives that gift to me. I’m too weak, too worldly, too addicted to joy. But somehow, these people saw it for what it was: an opportunity to speak Christ’s presence into the broken places of the earth, a chance to remind us that the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord.

“I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul.” Nadine Collier, daughter of Ethel Lance.

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Review: Ex Machina

June 19th, 2015 - 10:00 am
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For a while there, Oscar Isaac seemed to be making a career out of delivering terrific performances in highly praised but mediocre films. This time, in Ex Machina, he does better.

The critics loved Inside Llewyn Davis, Drive and A Most Violent Year. Drive was the best of those, but none of them was really all that good. In each, however, Isaac’s acting was well beyond spectacular in its realism and bristling macho energy. It’s a joy to watch him work.

He’s perfect for his role in Ex Machina. Writer-Director Alex Garland specializes in philosophical sci-fi powered by subtle and not-so-subtle battles for male dominance.  His powerful novel The Beach and his cult flick Sunshine are good examples. I can’t remember if his big hit, 28 Days Later, was also about male dominance battles, but I’m not going to watch it again to find out because zombies can’t move that fast.

In Ex Machina, the philosophy is about artificial intelligence, and the antler butting takes place between a young programmer played by Domhnall Gleeson and a great computer genius played by Isaac. The prize is a hot android played by the likewise hot Alicia Vikander. Isaac’s guy calls in Gleeson’s guy to Turing test whether Vikander’s bot has real intelligence or just apparent intelligence. And, of course, since Vikander’s bot is Vikander, Gleeson’s guy becomes attracted to her. Gleeson and Vikander are both great, by the way, but Isaac is so unbelievably real and nuanced and alive that he commands every scene he’s in.

And the picture is good, far better than anything else Isaac has done for my money. More a play than a movie really. In fact, if it had been a play, with the right special effects, it would have been one of the great evenings in the theater. As a movie, it’s small but still intelligent and gripping.

It’s still in some theaters but it comes out on DVD next week.

More High Praise for “Werewolf Cop”

June 17th, 2015 - 11:00 am


My friend Mark Tapson has written a very kind review of my new thriller Werewolf Cop over at FrontPage Mag:

[Klavan] writes page-turners of unusually high literary quality, bursting with grand themes and big ideas but centered on sympathetic characters. He will carry you into dark depths but with a surprisingly comic touch, and the ride is always gripping and entertaining. And that has never been truer than with his latest book, Werewolf Cop.

Don’t make the mistake of passing on this book because you’re not into novels with an element of horror and the supernatural. Give it a chance – the mystery, the harrowing action, the fully-drawn characters, the sexual and spiritual tension, and the skillful prose will draw you in.

Read the whole thing here. Then buy the book here. Really.