Link Round-Up

To get back into the “book blogger” swing of things, here are some book links I have had enjoyed recently:

– Stanley Kurtz has a fascinating review of A Bee in the Mouth, by Peter Wood at NRO. Wood’s subtitle is “Anger in American Now” and Kurtz argues that the book “scores a direct cultural hit.” Here is Kurtz’s intro:

So the Democrats won the election. Is there any less anger in our politics for that? Not as far as I can tell. To be sure, you’ll find some relief on the Left, and a bit of smugness as well (the latter stemming more from our troubles in Iraq than from the election itself). But are we back to sweetness and light, say, on the web? I don’t think so. That is exactly why Peter Wood’s new book, A Bee in the Mouth: Anger in America Now scores a direct cultural hit. America has entered an enduring age of anger, and Peter Wood is the able (and unruffled) chronicler of that epoch.

I doubt that even Barack Obama can save us from our anger now. That’s because the anger that lately pervades our politics is more than just an aftereffect of six years of Democratic setbacks (although the strikingly angry Democratic response to their six bad years does call for an explanation). Our political anger is only the most impressive expression of a much wider cultural transformation. In politics, in music, in sports, on the web, in our families, and in the relations between the sexes, American anger has come into its own. Wood says we’re living in an era of “New Anger,” and regardless of who becomes our next president, New Anger isn’t going away anytime soon.

The review goes on to discuss New Anger’s impact on blogging, politics, and culture so read the whole thing.

– NRO writer John H. Miller has an article in the Wall Street Journal about the Fairfax County Public Library system culling of its stacks noted in a story in the Washington Post. In discussing the issue Miller raises an interesting question:

But this raises a fundamental question: What are libraries for? Are they cultural storehouses that contain the best that has been thought and said? Or are they more like actual stores, responding to whatever fickle taste or Mitch Albom tearjerker is all the rage at this very moment?

If the answer is the latter, then why must we have government-run libraries at all? There’s a fine line between an institution that aims to edify the public and one that merely uses tax dollars to subsidize the recreational habits of bookworms.

Read the rest for Miller’s answer. But let me turn that around. What do you think the purpose of public libraries should be? This feels like a good topic for a blog post. I will offer some thoughts on this interesting topic when I get the chance. But in the meantime I would love to hear from readers.

– Elizabeth Fox-Genovese died yesterday at the age of sixty-five. Joseph Bottum writes poignantly about her life over at First Things.

– Lauren F. Winner tackles two interesting books on a tough subject: Prayer. Her review at Books and Culture looks at Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? by Philip Yancey and Knocking on Heavens Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer by David Crump . Winner is a student of the subject but not always a successful practitioner:

I own and have read dozens, possibly hundreds, of books on prayer. A whole bookcase, right next to my desk, is filled with them: Dom Gregory Dix’s The Shape of the Liturgy, Roberta Bondi’s To Pray and to Love, F. D. Maurice’s sermons on the Lord’s Prayer… . Once upon a time I thought that my devotion to reading about prayer was a mark of my spiritual advancement. Eventually I came to realize my mistake: in fact, I love books on prayer not because I am uniquely prayerful, but because it is far, far easier to read about prayer than to actually pray. It is the rare book about prayer that, rather than inadvertently distracting me from the pursuit of a praying life, actually prompts me to pray. Yancey’s Prayer is one such book, and I am grateful for it.

Kevin Holtsberry
I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season).

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