Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
T. S. Eliot
Four Quartets
Briunt Norton

Friday, November 20, 2009

Conservative Novels?

The site Hey Miller is in the process of compiling a list of conservative novels. The comments would be of interest to book lovers. I am going to reproduce my comment here in hopes of spurring some discussion.

"I am intrigued by the category being considered at all. Why do we read novels? To experience beauty? To learn more about the human condition? For entertainment and to pass the time? I think that it tends to be a mixture of all of these. If I am reading mainly for entertainment, sure, I don't want a bunch of leftie foolishness invading my free time. But some of those lefties write very well and can be entertaining, e. g., Norman Mailer can deliver on occasion and Ken Kesey can be good. And I am secure enough in my world view that I think Sholokhov is not going to turn me into a commie.
"If I am reading to experience beauty I don't think conservative values are in jeopardy. Since truth is an element of beauty conservatism will tend to win out. Or the mind automatically makes adjustments to neutralize the lies. My favorite example would be James Joyce. He was an atheist and a socialist but still a great artist who wrote beautiful and entertaining books. His characters are interesting and and frighteningly real. And he does us the favor of not pushing his politics on us (though I think that there tends to be a bleakness, emptiness and depression near the core of his works that has been brought on by his atheism). And Joyce's work reinforces conservative values because it is so self-aware of its place in the Western tradition that the reading of his works forces the reader to think about and investigate further so many ideas and books that most nonconservatives ignore or attempt to sabotage.
"But if we are looking for overtly conservative novels I think The Devils by Dostoevsky has to be near the top of the list. It is an all out attack on socialism and progressivism. It shows that these ideologies are all merely fronts for atheism and displays where they inevitably lead.
"I'm surprised no one mentioned The Screwtape letters or Orwell's 1984.
"Waugh is always worth reading. The works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn are beautiful and an entertaining journey into another world.
"Heinlein's Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress bring up issues that conservatives will always think and write about. But if you look at Heinlein's whole body of work the over all judgement would have to fall in the area of weidorama.
"I don't imagine that Faulkner was self-consciously a conservative. But many of his novels delve deeply into the issue of race in America that we have not begun to see the end of. And he looks at the questions from many perspectives and never falls into the useless left wing class consciousness formulas."

1 comment:

  1. Excellent observations.

    Enjoyment of searches for truth, insight, and knowledge are all part of reading fiction, and high on my list is enjoyment of the expert handling of language by someone who loves language and has the technical and spiritual ability to weave the search into cloth of gold.

    But always, the experience of fiction (and non-fiction for that matter) also has been for me a conversation with someone who lives in a different time, place, culture, mindset, etc., etc.

    In that Tower of Babel, I can't resist the soothing experience of sitting down with a friend, new or old, who shares some of one's heartfelt beliefs, and expresses them thoughtfully and beautifully!

    That's one reason I'll be looking at this list with great interest, and why I thank you for bringing it to my attention.