Category Archives: Essays

A Crime Gone Tragically Wrong

In the June issue of The Critic, our curious doctor wonders about which crimes go wonderfully right after reading a report of a gang-related murder of a child in The Daily Telegraph.

When police spokesmen these days report a murder to the press and public — for example the owner of a corner shop killed by a young tyke who was trying to rob him — they often say, “This was an armed robbery that went tragically wrong.” A robbery that went happily right would have been one in which the redistribution of property had been effected and no one had been injured.

Martin Amis and the Lower Depths

Over at Takimag, the dissenting doctor ponders the meaning behind the books of the recently deceased Martin Amis, and disputes the lefty Guardian‘s description of Amis as “an era-defining novelist.”

I suppose the problem arises when the lower depths predominate; that is to say, when much of society comes to resemble its former lower depths, whose way of life is fashionable rather than merely the object of prurient interest. When Martin Amis said that the people who wanted signed copies of his books were sleazeballs, or what might once have been called degenerates, I do not think he was being self-critical, but rather self-congratulatory.

A Quarry of Quandaries

In the June issue of New Criterion, our critical doctor considers two interesting plays from the oeuvre of John Galsworthy, who was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932.

For myself, I can’t quite decide whether the internals or externals are the more important to literature. After all, in the absence of consciousness, nothing in the universe could be of the slightest importance; conversely, only a very spoiled, self-obsessed, and superficial person could deny the impact of the external on the internal.

The Duke and the Butcher

In the June edition of New English Review, our favorite doctor contemplates change, nostalgia for a vanished past, the retirement of his favorite French butcher, the lives of the petit bourgeois, and the need for gratitude.

The Duke of Cambridge, I think it was, said that he was against all change, even for the better. This seems on the face of it absurd, but I have come to know what he meant, even if I do not myself go quite so far as did he: for the desire for change denotes a state of dissatisfaction. Its opposite, satisfaction, is preferable as a state of mind not only because it is more pleasant in itself but because dissatisfaction breeds a tendency to all kinds of imaginary perfections, which the attempt to put into practice usually ends in hell, or at least hellishness, on earth.

The Buck’s to Blame

Over at Takimag, our astute doctor analyzes the Iraqi government’s recent decision to ban the use of the US dollar in the country’s economy.

I cannot predict where the current fashion for de-dollarization will end or what it will bring in its wake. I suspect it will be nothing good. If successful in the sense that the dollar ceases to be the reserve currency of the world, it will cause even more instability than there is at present, and stability, even when unfair, has its value. If it fails, it will increase resentment, never a motive of the best policy.

From Duty to Decadence

In the spring edition of City Journal, our loyal doctor pens a penetrating eulogy in honor of the duty-bound and graceful Queen Elizabeth, while contrasting her with her self-absorbed grandson, Prince Harry.

After so long a period, she came to seem almost immortal, her presence taken for granted, as one takes a phenomenon of nature for granted. Toward the end of her life, however, when it became clear that she must die in the not-distant future, a number of people I know—my neighbors and others—expressed anxiety at the thought of her death: for when we have lived for so long with a seemingly fixed point, its removal, even if it is distant from us, is unsettling. For those grown old during her reign, change seemed unlikely to be for the better and chaos more than possible, given that so little goes uncontested these days.

Human Tragedy in Aisle Five

Over at Quadrant, our sympathetic doctor stops by the local store in his Parisian neighborhood and encounters human tragedy of varying degrees.

On this occasion, I had also gone to the checkout with only two items: a punnet of raspberries and a bottle of vodka. I know what I should have concluded had I been him: that I was an alcoholic who flavoured his vodka with raspberries. But he would have been mistaken: I am, in fact, a moderate drinker, which is to say that I know many people who drink far more.

Open Letter From a Closed Mind

In his weekly Takimag column, our hopeful doctor points to a rare example of a book publisher not relenting in the face of the usual progressive pseudo-intellectual protest party.

On the pretext of protecting eggshell sensitivities, they want to prevent discussion of contentious matters and enforce their own views as an unassailable orthodoxy. I suspect (though I cannot prove) that this is because, at some level of what one must call their minds, they are only too aware that their views and careers are built on a foundation of shifting sands.

A Principled Case for Silencing Your Enemies?

The good doctor is given the arduous task of having to review a sloppily-written book defending the increasingly nasty woke cancel culture.

No book is completely without value, though it may not have the value that the author ascribes to it. This book is valuable as a window on the soul of those who allow resentment to dominate reason. This is a permanent, but dangerous, temptation of mankind.

Kafka’s Trials

Our favorite doctor returns to First Things for the June/July print edition with a book review of the newly translated diaries of Franz Kafka.

If the translation of a single, not very complex sentence can give rise to such differences in meaning, imagine the cumulative effects of different translations over an entire book! When we say that something is Kafkaesque, do we refer to Kafka or to translations of Kafka—or, if they coincide sufficiently, to both?