Listen now | A talk about literature, the arts, and culture with the associate dean for the Van Andel Graduate School of Government at Hillsdale College on Capitol Hill.
Really understanding the greatest dozen Shakespeare plays is the key to a life of reading and loving literature in general. Each play is worth any amount of time you put into it. You can absorb the plays by reading and listening at the same time. Getting Shakespeare means loving it. You don’t know anything about beauty unless you feel it. With Shakespeare under your belt, you have the skills to go anywhere: poetry, fiction, theater, philosophy.
Reading poetry is not just picking up a poet and starting to read. The greatest poets wrote many bad poems that are not worth reading unless you’re an academic. Some of the habits of academia are antithetical to loving literature. A great poem is a coincidence of great skill and feeling in the perfect moment. A master poet may write a dozen volumes of poetry in a lifetime, and a handful of good poems, if he or she is lucky. Poetry is different from other literary art in this way. Try John Keat’s A Grecian Urn. I happen to love Ben Jonson's To Heaven.
Conservative writers are all around us because conservatism represents a tragic view of human life, which is about the limitations of human beings—and their beauty. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. (Check out Gary Saul Morson on AK. An absolutely amazing conservative literary critic.) Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi. Melville’s Moby Dick, the great American epic poem. I’m not a big fan of Hemingway or Faulkner, but Hemingway’s short story The Big Two-hearted River Pts 1&2 is heartbreaking and beautiful, a really delicate piece of art. About a soldier home from war without a single mention of it. I also love Anthony Trollope's Palliser series. Trollope understanding of human nature is amazing and not depressing, like so many are. He is good company, like Montaigne's essays.
Would love to hear more about art, Mr Gonzalez!
This was a stimulating conversation and a reminder that I’ve become way too immersed in the political side of life. It’s also a reminder that this degrading of society has been a slow drip and if there is any chance at all of a restorative process it is going to need to start with the younger generations. I hope you pick up where you left off with culture on the right. Thanks for this...an hour well spent. I did order two sets of books. I will give one to my young granddaughter and keep one to read so we can hopefully start a discussion.
Will this be posted with Apple too?