Saturday, July 24, 2010

The American Scholar Rocks!

I love poking through the magazine shelves of the local book superstore because there's always treasure to be found. At present, it's The American Scholar, a tough-minded left-leaning quarterly that doesn't flinch from covering academic, political, literary, and religious topics from unpopular vantage points if the facts undergird it. This issue has just about everything:

  • The cover article declares: "The Earth Doesn't Care if You Drive a Hybrid," while Robert B. Laughlin talks about current climate issues through the lens of geologic time--and comes up with some surprising insights:
"Common sense tells us that damaging a thing (Earth) this old is somewhat easier to imagine than it is to accomplish—like invading Russia. The earth has suffered mass volcanic explosions, floods, meteor impacts, mountain formation, and all manner of other abuses greater than anything people could inflict, and it’s still here. It’s a survivor. We don’t know exactly how the earth recovered from these devastations, because the rocks don’t say very much about that, but we do know that it did recover—the proof of it being that we are here."
  • Poet Christian Wiman, who grew up Southern Baptist before turning to atheism before returning to a full-fledged faith, writes about "Hive of Nerves," which is described as: "To be alive spiritually is to feel the ultimate anxiety of existence within the trivial anxieties of everyday life." I heard his presentation on this topic at Calvin College's Festival of Faith and Writing, and it was candid, penetrating, and reaffirming.
  • An essay on how the writers of the early-to-mid 19th century struggled to find who Americans actually were. Then they foundthe unique literary voice of America.
  • New fiction by short story master Charles Baxter.
If you've never braved an academic quarterly, this is the one to start with. You won't regret it.

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