Formerly Ad Orientem

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Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children.

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He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

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Irish Elk
Thursday, June 10, 2004  

Books &c

Under the heading of "History for Fun," Erin O'Connor has put together a list of history books, historical novels and biographies that are well written and that don't require background in the subject to enjoy. She invites reader submissions to the list and has received quite a few. The idea for the reading list comes from Random Pensées.

* * *

Take the ultimate vocabulary test, via the sesquipedalian Enoch Soames, who mopped the floor with me. (Don at Mixolydian Mode also scored well.)

* * *

The mammoth Theodore Roosevelt Cyclopedia has been placed online. Some entries chosen at random from of the entries, chosen at random from Section J-J:

though a man whose views and thories had a profound
influence upon our national life, was perhaps the most
incapable executive that ever filled the presidential
chair; being almost purely a visionary, he was utterly
unable to grapple with the slightest actual danger, and,
not even excepting his successor, Madison, it would be
difficult to imagine a man less fit to guide the State
with honor and safety through the stormy times that
marked the opening of the present century. Without the
prudence to avoid war or the forethought to prepare for
it, the Administration drifted helplessly into a conflict
in which only the navy prepared by the Federalists
twelve years before, and weakened rather than
strengthened during the intervening time, saved us from
complete and shameful defeat. (1882.) Mem. Ed. VII,
424; Nat. Ed. VI, 373.

JESUITS IN AMERICA. Inspired by a fervent
devotion to their church and religion, which was akin
both to that of the early Christian martyrs and to that of
the most warlike crusaders, these early Jesuits were
among the pioneers in the exploration of the New
World, and baptized and converted to at least nominal
Christianity scores of tribes from the Bay of Fundy to
Lake Superior and the mouth of the Mississippi. They
suffered every conceivable kind of danger, discomfort,
and hardship; they braved toil and peril like knights
errant of the Middle Ages, and they met the most
terrible deaths with cheerful, resolute composure. At
one time is looked as though they might build up a
great empire in the interior of this continent, with
converted tribes of Indian warriors as its buttresses; and
yet the fabric which they so laboriously reared proved
unsubstantial and crumbled without in any way
fulfilling its promise. Most of the Indians whom they
had converted lapsed into heathenism, and most of the
remainder remained Christians in little save the name.
The lasting services they rendered were less as pioneers
of Christianity than as explorers and map-makers.
(Independent, November 24, 1892.) Mem. Ed. XIV,
289-290; Nat. Ed. XII, 249.

JEWS—PERSECUTION OF. The lamentable and
terrible suffering to which so many of the Jewish
people in other lands have been subjected, makes me
feel it my duty, as the head of the American people, not
only to express my deep sympathy for them, as I now do, but at
the same time to point out what fine qualities of
citizenship have been displayed by the men of Jewish
faith and race, who having come to this country, enjoy
the benefits of free institutions and equal treatment
before the law. I feel very strongly that if any people
are oppressed anywhere, the wrong inevitably reacts in
the end on those who oppress them; for it is an
immutable law in the spiritual world that no one can
wrong others and yet in the end himself escape unhurt.
(To Jacob H. Schiff, November 16, 1905; read at
Carnegie Hall, New York City, November 30, 1905.)
The Two Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of the
Settlement of the Jews in the United States. (N. Y.
Cooperative Society, 1906), p. 18.

JIU JITSU. Yesterday afternoon we had Professor
Yamashita up here to wrestle with Grant. It was very
interesting, but of course jiu jitsu and our wrestling are
so far apart that it is difficult to make any comparison
between them. Wrestling is simply a sport with rules
almost as conventional as those of tennis, while jiu jitsu
is really meant for practice in killing or disabling our
adversary. In consequence, Grant did not know what to
do except to put Yamashita on his back, and Yamashita
was perfectly content to be on his back. Inside of a
minute Yamashita had choked Grant, and inside of two
minutes more he got an elbow hold on him that would
have enabled him to break his arm; so that there is no
question but that he could have put Grant out. So far
this made it evident that the jiu jitsu man could handle
the ordinary wrestler. But Grant, in the actual wrestling
and throwing was about as good as the Japanese, and he
was so much stronger that he evidently hurt and wore
out the Japanese. With a little practice in the art I am
sure that one of our big wrestlers or boxers, simply
because of his greatly superior strength, would be able
to kill any of those Japanese, who though very good
men for their inches and pounds are altogether too
small to hold their own against big, powerful, quick
men who are as well trained. (To Kermit Roosevelt,
February 24, 1905.) Mem. Ed. XXI, 535; Nat. Ed. XIX,

* * *

Ayn Rand, "consummate flibbertigibbet," is defenestrated:

The author of 'The Fountainhead' and 'Atlas Shrugged' simply won't go away - but she should.

At the close of the last century, Modern Library, the prestige publisher, announced its list of the 100 best novels of the 100 years, as chosen by a panel of top writers and scholars. Not a single work by Ayn Rand made the list.

Then, turning the contest into a national parlor game, Modern Library invited ordinary readers to submit their choices. A quarter of a million responded, and presto! Rand's magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, scored No. 1, and three more Rand novels appeared in the top 10.

This news might have brought a contemptuous smile to Ayn Rand's stony face, but for one thing: Her chief competitor was L. Ron Hubbard, who landed three titles on the public's top 10. Hubbard, a marginal writer of science fiction, founded Scientology.

This outcome pretty well settles the enduring question of whether Ayn Rand was an important writer, or whether she was simply the goddess of a great American cult whose erstwhile members include such powerful men as Alan Greenspan. Whatever her status as a writer, as a charismatic spell-caster, Rand ranks up there with Rasputin and Aimee Semple McPherson.


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