Ronald Blythe Obituary.” Patrick Barkham remembers a great localist writer: “Never out of print and read and studied around the world, Akenfield made Blythe famous and perhaps overshadowed the many other fruits of his long years of writing–short stories, poems, histories, novels and, in later life, luminous essays and a superb weekly diary that the Church Times published for 25 years until 2017. Blythe, who has died aged 100, is regarded by his peers and many readers as the finest contemporary writer on the English countryside.” (Recommended by Rob Grano.)

The GOP Is the Unlettered Party. And That’s a Good Thing.” Karl Zinsmeister assesses the causes and consequences of the ongoing political realignment in America: “The most striking change in modern American politics is a flipping of the class loyalties of the two major parties. For decades, Democrats were seen as defenders of the little guy, and the GOP as home for pillars of the establishment. But country-club Republicans have been displaced by country-music Republicans, while our socio-economic gentry of lawyers, Wall Streeters, professors, Hollywood moguls, tech millionaires, media influencers, and others from the beau monde have flooded into the “D’s” column.” (Recommended by Bill Kauffman.)

Can Gratitude Save Humanity?” Matthew Crawford observes that “grace and gratitude have the same root, whether one is speaking etymologically or psychologically.” This insight forms the seed of a long essay probing the prerequisites and effects of gratitude. (Recommended by Bernie Franceschi.)

On Our Need to Be Displaced.” Christina Bieber Lake reads one of O’Connor’s short stories and shows how this narrative offers its readers an opportunity to receive and extend grace: “The richest irony in efforts to dismiss O’Connor is that her fiction provides the insight we need right now to help heal our social and political divisions, and to temper our hostile public discourse. Because Flannery O’Connor, with her scorching wit, fingered the exact cause of all of it, including racism: fear.”

Hic et Nunc.” Ryan Ruby considers A.E. Stallings poetic approach on its own merits and finds much to praise: “Her body of work—which has drawn comparisons to Edna St. Vincent Millay and Elizabeth Bishop, but which also recalls the urbane style of her fellow American expatriate in Athens, James Merrill—is notable for two things: its sustained engagement with the literature and material culture of antiquity, and its use of rhyme, meter, and fixed verse forms.”

An America of One or Many?” Clifford Thompson describes Wendell Berry’s new book, A Need to Be Whole, as “a thoughtful, illuminating, sometimes frustrating, occasionally mystifying, utterly profound book that, whether or not one agrees with it (and no one will agree with all of it), will leave readers with a new way of looking at things.”

This Competent Life.” Brian Miller marvels at his 88-year-old neighbor’s competence: “I would maintain that developing manual and intellectual competencies (and expertly dropping a massive oak tree requires both) brings a satisfaction and a fulfillment that simply being a passive consumer never can.”

In Defense of Maintenance.” In reviewing The Innovation Delusion, Hans Zeiger concludes that “often, maintainers are the most trustworthy innovators. They have the deep knowledge and sense of responsibility that is needed to lead wise innovation. They have a respect for relationships and best practices, and they know where real change is needed.”

Who Rules the Rural South?” In a lengthy essay, Jesse Williams draws on Wendell Berry and others to chart the symbiotic relationship between the “center” and the “periphery,” between coastal elites and rural elites. This relationship results in the hollowing out of local communities as resources and people and profits are taken away. It’s a mistake, then, to see rural America as cut off from urban capital: “The things that are assumed to be evidence of separation—poverty, local oligarchy, and embittered cultural politics—are in fact the effects of economic and political integration. America’s backwaters have always been tied tightly to capital in America’s great cities. They have provided the cheap commodities that fueled booming American industry. They have provided markets for finished goods and places to invest the excess capital that has accumulated on the coasts.”

Competing Paradigms: On ‘The Last Writings of Thomas S. Kuhn.’” Paul Dicken reviews a new collection of Kuhn’s writings and traces the development of his approach to the problems of conflicting scientific models and the possibilities of translating between different languages and cultural paradigms: “The extremes of realism and relativism thus both arise from the same error, and Kuhn’s last writings were his attempt to move beyond either.”

ChatGPT and Defining Humanity in the Age of Brains in Vats.” Nadejda Williams takes a metaphysical approach to the rise of AI writing: “if we look at this particular advancement as part of the larger picture of other technological advancements of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the key question they raise is: what does it mean to be human? For this question, we need to look to two other areas of technology where significant technological advancements have been made—namely, neuroscience and human reproduction.”

Libraries Aren’t Safe, But They Are Good.” Emily Belz describes the mundane challenges librarians face as they seek to foster a place where communities can gather and learn: “Generally overlooked in the library battles raging around controversial books—and in some cases, defunding—is the reality of what many librarians spend most of their time doing: stewarding public spaces for needy communities.

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


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