Ed Driscoll

The Way Forward: Culture or Anarchy?

In “Hope or Despair? Roger Kimball and the Future of Culture,” Wilfred M. McClay of the Russell Kirk Center reviews Roger Kimball’s recent book, The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia:

In addition to his work with The New Criterion, Kimball has since 2006 been the publisher of Encounter Books, having transformed that small enterprise into a powerful and innovative force in book publishing, one of the most lively and influential voices of intellectual and political conservatism in the English-speaking world. Culture is never transformed by individuals alone; there must be the infrastructure for communities of discourse: magazines, organizations, venues, organs, gathering places, editors, audiences, salons, and networks, outposts within which those individuals can operate, and flourish, and be heard, and good ideas can be shared, transmitted, propagated. If Kimball had done nothing else, his role in sustaining The New Criterion and Encounter Books, two crucial institutions of American cultural renewal, would make him a very important individual.

But he is probably known less for these roles than for his prolific writing, as the author of several elegant and fearlessly critical books and many articles on a variety of subjects, from the decadent state of American higher education to the ideological pillage of the art world; and more recently has emerged as a first-rate blogger on cultural and political subjects at the New Criterion’s “Arma Virumque” site and on his own weblog called “Roger’s Rules.” But the classic extended essay is his métier, and this latest of his books is an exceptionally winning collection of them, ranging from the penetrating cultural analysis in the essay supplying the book’s title, to insightful revisionist sketches of such writers and thinkers as Rudyard Kipling, Richard Weaver, and James Burnham, to appreciations of such surprising works as The Dangerous Book for Boys and the novels of John Buchan, to forceful takedowns, à la Kramer, of the various frauds and diseases afflicting academia and high culture, particularly the worlds of art and architecture. It is, among its other virtues, a very great pleasure to read, even when the subject matter being treated is dismal, as it frequently must be.

Read the whole thing. And when you’re done, check out my interview with Roger on his new book.