10*

by Caleb Stegall on April 2, 2010 · 26 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Now that the admission of blogger taint is clearly in the open, one may as well go the full bathos and in mock-heroic register harmonized with a hint of too-earnest self-congratulatory tone, produce one’s own list (all while calling oneself “one”).  FPR contributors and commenters are free to offer their own judgments and/or lists.  Maybe it will ease the ecumenical tension!

The obligatory, “in no order” applies (Bramwell clearly missed a prime target for mockery here, as the act of ranking is clearly too gauche for one compiling a top ten list– Who do you think I am, David Letterman!?):

1.  Eliot, 4Q
2.  Voegelin, Order and History
3.  Rabelais, Gargantua & Pantagruel
4.  Milton, Paradise Lost
5.  God, The Bible
6.  Augustine, Confessions
7.  Thoreau, Walden / Whitman, Leaves
8.  Shuger, Habits of Thought in the English Renaissance
9.  Saint Exupery, The Little Prince
10. Adams, Watership Down

Bramwell’s categories are good, but he fails to identify the overall strategic goal of such lists is to make the reader think, “This blogger is so interesting that I am going to waste many of my precious few hours of life reading his blog!”  The rest is just tactics.  In this, blogging may be the equivalent of a first date for ugly people.

To the categories:

1. “I admit that I was pretty silly at age 18.”  Here I keep the reader guessing.  Is The Bible intended to fulfill this requirement, or not?  Mystery generates interest, hence, high score.   Thoreau and Whitman rate well here too, especially because the list is silent on whether I read them before or after watching Dead Poet’s Society.  More mystery.
2. “My interests are more diverse than you know.”  Here the list fails.  Diversity is overrated though, and readers know this in their heart of hearts, so won’t hold failure here against the strategic goal of generating blog hits.
3. “I have read deeply enough in the Western Canon to consider the Great Books my friends.” Rabelais scores well here–obscure canonical presence and farting together in one place.  Milton and Augustine, only so-so.   Eliot doesn’t count.
4. “I am not afraid to defend a book that you may hate.”  The Bible is a brilliant choice here.  Religious intellectuals are a dime a dozen and are boring.  Listing the Bible suggests boldness combined with unexplored depths.
5. “I may have my biases, but I have still read and learned from the other side.”  Flunk.  This list suggests very little capacity for learning anything.  On the other hand, it does have the virtue of treating reading like a diversionary activity, which it surely is.  Gutsy move when one’s goal is suckering in readers.  Will it work?  Let the hit-counter be the judge.
6. “I have a well-formed coherent worldview.” Again, this list keeps the reader guessing, which is the surest means to drawing him or her further in.
7. “Gosh, I sure was precocious as a kid!” The Little Prince is the perfect pick here.  The Little Prince is irresistibly cute, yet written by a Frenchman.  Precocious indeed!
8. “I’ve got some serious candlepower in here.”  Voegelin seems at first like a winner here, however, it fails miserably because no one really believes anyone can understand EV.
9. “There’s no way the rest of you guys have read anything as obscure as this.” Shuger is my entrant in this category, and I’m guessing it’s a good one, but doesn’t score top marks because the title hints to the reader that the book deserves to be obscure.
10. “I may be highly literate but I’m not an intellectual snob.” My score is off the charts in this category.  I can’t imagine any book scoring so high in both the snob and anti-snob category as Watership Down.  What is more snobbish than a children’s story about bunnies that purports to be an allegory about the evils of communism and national socialism?  On the other hand, what could be more anti-snob than openly identifying one’s reading tastes with those of James Ford, a/k/a, Sawyer from “ABC’s Lost”?

* I admit, the title to this post is a trick designed to get Peters to click through in hopes of seeing Dudley Moore frolicking on a beach.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Austin Bramwell April 2, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Heh, heh. Very nice. Speaking of blogger self-congratulation, I should now take credit for starting a “meme”!

avatar Russell Arben Fox April 2, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Bramwell clearly missed a prime target for mockery here, as the act of ranking is clearly too gauche for one compiling a top ten list.

I safely avoided this issue by making my lists alphabetical by author/title. So elementary and non-ideological that no one could mock it one way or another.

I can’t imagine any book scoring so high in both the snob and anti-snob category as Watership Down. What is more snobbish than a children’s story about bunnies that purports to be an allegory about the evils of communism and national socialism?

This is the only book we share (well, except for the New Testament, though you had to go and make me feel bad about never having made it all the way through Lamentaions). But was Adam’s book really a WWII reminiscence or Cold War allegory? I always thought it was based on the Aeneid.

avatar Caleb Stegall April 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Russell, I confess I missed seeing your second list until just now. But am glad we can share Watership Down together with Sawyer!

avatar Jason Peters April 2, 2010 at 5:53 pm

Stegall, you forget my impious antipathy toward movies.

avatar Caleb Stegall April 2, 2010 at 7:10 pm

And yet here you are!

avatar Wessexman April 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm

“diversity is overrated though, and readers know this in their heart of hearts, so won’t hold failure here against the strategic goal of generating blog hits.”

You are a wiseman Caleb.

avatar James Matthew Wilson April 2, 2010 at 9:29 pm

I’ll bite. Here is a list of the ten books that have exercised the most powerful conscious influence on me. I give them in exactly the order I read them, beginning with the inevitable slouchy teen book and proceeding to a book so great — and sufficiently recently read — that I’m far (probably years) from finished feeling its impact. I did this kind of quickly, however, so I could have overlooked a few other gems (note that I leave Chesterton, Arendt, Burke, Pascal, Eliot, and good old James Kalb off the list, though I could make a self-serving, self-referential case for all of them):

1. Kafka, “The Trial”
2. Dante, “The Divine Comedy”
3. Yeats, “Among School Children” and “A Vision”
4. John Paul II, “Fides et Ratio”
5. St. Augustine, “Confessions”
6. Yvor Winters, “In Defense of Reason”
7. Alasdair MacIntyre, “After Virtue”
8. Maritain, “Art and Scholasticism”
9. Etienne Gilson, “Being and Some Philosophers”
10. Hans Urs von Balthasar, “The Glory of the Lord, Vol. 1″

avatar John Willson April 5, 2010 at 7:01 am

I can’t name ten. But include on your list Willa Cather’s “Death Comes for the Archbishop.” And Caleb, if you really want to read Whitman, you can speed it up by reading only every other line. It makes more sense that way.

avatar Caleb Stegall April 5, 2010 at 8:38 am

Here comes the Walt Hate …

I should have known that pick would score well in the “I’m not afraid to defend a book you hate” category!

avatar John Willson April 5, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Caleb,

No Walt hate. I just find him…boring.

avatar Caleb Stegall April 5, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Better be careful Willson, I think I hear Sabin about to pounce.

avatar John Willson April 5, 2010 at 7:40 pm

And by the way, all transcendentalists are not only boring, but so superficial as to make their progressive heirs seem interesting. If you are right about Sabin, maybe this will precipitate the pounce. I don’t think so, and can’t imagine anyone on this site who would spend much time defending WW.

avatar Caleb Stegall April 5, 2010 at 8:16 pm

I would:

http://www.frontporchrepublic.com/2009/04/life-amid-the-suicide-machines/

What is it lately with people presuming to know what contributors on a “site like this” would read, or appreciate, etc.? First no Friedrick, then no Ayn, now Walt is exiled! Forgive me, but I’d rather join the exiles, and if there is any common thread on this site, I think it might be this.

avatar Wessexman April 5, 2010 at 8:24 pm

You know what, I think a porcher reading list or even reading group would be an excellent move.

Interesting opinion on the transcendentalists John, except for Thoreau I largely agree. Thoreau’s Walden is not bad, imho, though it needs to be read as supplemental to the traditionalist canon and not as part of its core(like Edward Abbey.).

avatar Wessexman April 5, 2010 at 8:30 pm

“What is it lately with people presuming to know what contributors on a “site like this” would read, or appreciate, etc.? First no Friedrick, then no Ayn, now Walt is exiled! Forgive me, but I’d rather join the exiles, and if there is any common thread on this site, I think it might be this.”

But doesn’t that suggest a problem at the heart of the porcher ideal? The split which makes it hard to get coherence. How is one going to get a united front between traditionalists who consider Plato, the Schoolmen and Burke(etc.) as the core of right thought and individualists who put Edward Abbey and Thoreau(etc.) in such a place?

And Rand at least deserves it! I don’t see what she adds to either group.

avatar James Matthew Wilson April 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm

When I signed up for FPR, I didn’t recall there being any ambition to establish coherence, only to create a place where place, limits, and liberty could be defended by all comers.

As I have said elsewhere, I don’t mind if we do establish a platform, but it wasn’t with the aim to formulate one that I signed on and there’s no way we could form one with our prevent motley makeup.

Frankly, I expected we’d be having more of Caleb’s farm stories than we have had and fewer of my discussions on condoms . . . I’m only responsible for half of that, though, as is so often the case in matters involving contraception.

avatar Wessexman April 6, 2010 at 1:25 am

I didn’t mean just this site but generally those who come under the localist and traditionalist, even paleoconservative, banners. It is not so much a platform necessarily but a recognition of divergent paths that needs to first come about, imho. A recognition of differences, like traditionalists don’t tend to much care for Rand or Rothbard, is as important as a coherence among the differing factions.

avatar John Willson April 6, 2010 at 10:23 am

James Matthew,

Are you for incoherence? I lean that way myself.

avatar James Matthew Wilson April 6, 2010 at 10:27 am

What are you saying, John? “Do I contradict myself? Very well I contradict myself.”

avatar Wessexman April 6, 2010 at 6:35 pm

Don’t be impolite John, if you have something to offer against my point then make a clear comment against it.

avatar John Willson April 6, 2010 at 10:40 pm

I’m sorry, Wessexman, who will not sign his name, did I make any comment that is related to something you have said? I thought that JMW’s comeback to me was quite good, and yours is totally incomprehensible.

avatar Wessexman April 6, 2010 at 11:55 pm

What’s wrong with not signing your name? My name is frightfully boring, the first being the same as yours, whereas Wessexman shows my loyalty to my part of my fine nation.

I took your comment to be a dig at my position that was not even addressed to my, if that was not what it was then I apologise of course.

avatar Bob Cheeks April 7, 2010 at 7:07 am

“Can’t we all just get along..?” the poet-activist, Rodney King!
I didn’t know coherence was a requirement at FPR?

avatar John Willson April 7, 2010 at 7:29 am

Caleb,
I just read your “defense” of Whitman. It’s a great piece, I love it, but it doesn’t say much about poetry. I like Bob Seger much better than Springsteen, by the way. My father-in-law, dead now this twenty or so years, used to come to Hillsdale every year for our county fair the last week of September, to see the horse pulls. Every year there is a world record or two set in this little town, because all the great horses come to compete. Southern central Michigan, northwest Ohio, and northeast Indiana produce the biggest and best work horses in the world. I lived in St. Louis for eight years back in the late 60s-early 70s and saw the Clydesdales ten or so times a year, but you ain’t seen nothin’ like these animals at the Hillsdale County Fair. We have “tractor” pulls, too. They are disgusting.
Here’s a suggestion: spend one four hour evening reading Robert Frost. Start with “Build Soil,” and then go anywhere your eyes take you. Then we can talk about Whitman.

avatar Caleb Stegall April 7, 2010 at 10:14 am

John, thanks for the kind words. And you’re right, it really wasn’t about poetry. The “defense” I was thinking of, such as it was, came in the comments.

And be assured, I have spent my four hours and more with Frost, and he is wonderful. Seger, on the other hand, does little for me.

avatar John Willson April 8, 2010 at 6:04 am

Caleb, “Tryin’ to Live My Life Without You, Babe.” “Against the Wind,” “Fire Lake,” “Night Moves,” ; is there a Springsteen song that comes close? Ask the middle aged truckers who they listen to. Man, am I glad you like Frost. It confirms everything I have instinctively and intellectually (argh!) thought was good about you, except for Springsteen.

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