George Scialabba’s Prejudice for Progress.” Come for Sam Adler-Bell’s summary of Scialabba’s appraisal of modernity, stay for his paean to the way Scialabba models what it means to be an “amateur” intellectual: “for Scialabba, the essence of intellectual and creative exchange remains a gift economy: ‘When we’re young, our souls are stirred, our spirits kindled, by a book or some other experience,’ he once said, ‘and in time, when we’ve matured, we look to pay the debt, to pass the gift along.’ Gratitude, deeply felt, enables generosity. And never has a writer of such enviable talents displayed such undiminishing patience for his reader, such evident and unpretentious pleasure in the pedagogical function of good prose.”

Sweet Land of Michigan.” James Matthew Wilson describes why he longed to move back to Michigan and what the fruits of that return have been: “The French poet Charles Péguy used to proclaim that France was eternal. He did not mean that France was older than history or somehow transcended history, but rather that France was the historical place where the eternal was made manifest. So it is with Michigan’s abiding claim on me.” (Recommended by John Murdock.)

One Christian’s Quest to Change the Way We See Immigration.” Sophia Lee talks with people in El Paso about the ongoing and seemingly intractable problems afflicting the border. She doesn’t find support for any simple partisan narrative, but she does describe how people who meet real migrants come away with a new appreciation for the complexity of the situation: “Meeting the eyes of these children, exchanging smiles with them, reminded Lee of the hours he had once spent reading blog posts that fomented outrage about the border. ‘I didn’t directly harm anyone, but I certainly harmed myself,’ he said. ‘I felt guilty toward God that I would misuse my time and deform myself by turning a serious and complicated problem into cheap emotional entertainment.’”

The People who Ruined the Internet.” Amanda Chicago Lewis isn’t sure if the people who ruined the internet are the SEOs trying to game Google, or if they are the executives and engineers running Google: “You can’t just be the most powerful observer in the world for two decades and not deeply warp what you are looking at. For the past 25 years, the internet as we know it has been almost entirely defined and controlled by Google. What the SEOs do matters for all of us on a daily basis, distorting how we perceive the world in ways we can hardly begin to imagine or understand.”

Christianity Has Anchored Free Societies. What Happens as They Deconvert?” Bonnie Kristian reviews John Gray’s The New Leviathans: Thoughts after Liberalism and finds much to commend in his account of liberalism and what might succeed it. She concludes with a wise reminder of the conditions required to maintain freedom: “Our duty, I submit, is to do what is required to live in a free and orderly society, which Collingwood says requires ‘constantly overcoming one’s own passions and desires’ and ‘living at the somewhat high and arduous level of mental adultness’ because we “value [our] civilization and keep [our]selves by [our] own free will up to the standard [we] now recognize.’ Our duty is to seek freedom with restraint, for it is the only alternative to the new Leviathans’ endless constraint in the name of freedom.”

Sphere and Loathing in Las Vegas.” Charlie Warzel previews a likely venue for a future FPR conference: “The Sphere is a distillation of an evolving relationship among art, artist, and technology—somewhere between a warm embrace of and a final surrender to screens. It is an acknowledgment and maybe even a tribute to the ways in which our screens have become extensions of ourselves and the way that documentation via these screens has become its own form of consumption and participation.”

The Peasant Food Web.” Chris Smaje considers the prospects for small-scale farmers to produce food on less land and with fewer energy inputs than industrial methods: “The spectre of ‘mass death’ haunts arguments for ruralism. Often, the underlying idea is that the peasant food web simply can’t produce enough food compared to modern industrial methods. This isn’t well supported by the evidence. There’s currently a dispute in the research literature concerning the proportion of all food globally produced by the peasant food web, but even the low-end estimates concede that per hectare productivities are higher than in the industrial system.”

Closing In on Cather.” Carl Rollyson reviews Chasing Bright Medusas: A Life of Willa Cather by Benjamin Taylor and praises this brief biography for allowing readers to hear Cather’s own conflicted thoughts about the value of her art: “In Cather’s lexicon, Medusa is the muse, and the pursuit of art, which rarely turned out exactly as Cather had imagined. Although Mr. Taylor has his own bright things to say about Cather’s work, what distinguishes this biography is its recurrence to Cather’s own extraordinary assessment of her successes and failures.”

The Ends of Work.” Drake Osborn considers the importance of how we imagine the point of our work. Perhaps, he argues, we should imagine our work not as building structures but cultivating fruit: “Fruit is entirely different from structures. Fruit is alive, buildings aren’t. Anytime we build bigger, better houses or businesses or bank accounts, the purpose should be to support the fruit, which is the work of our life that is alive: parenting, being a friend, joining a church. Fruit requires cultivation, but is ultimately driven by spiritual forces outside of our control.”

Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture
Local Culture


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