Tuesday, May 31, 2005

The Conservative Bookshelf

I recently bought a copy of Chilton Williamson's The Conservative Bookshelf: Essential Works That Impact Today's Conservative Thinkers. It is my favorite kind of book -- the kind you don't have to read all at once, or in order. It is a collection of essays about 50 conservative books that Williamson has selected. Williamson was book editor at National Review until he moved up to Chronicles a while back.

The book includes many titles that you would expect in such a collection including Witness by Whittaker Chambers, The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk and The Road to Serfdom by Friederich A. Hayek. Add to that, what Thomas Fleming calls a "rascally set of novelists and essayists -- Ernest Hemingway, Edward Abbey, William Faulkner, Edmund Wilson and Aldous Huxley -- few of whom ever thought of themselves as conservatives."

A symposium in the February Chronicles includes comments from Fleming and others better qualified than me to determine who should be included in a conservative canon. They were generally critical of the inclusion of Ann Coulter. Coulter and her allies would do well to read Williamson's comments on her brand of conservatism:
A nation of gods, apparently, is entitled by its power to war against anyone it can beat, reconstruct the world politically in accordance with its own beliefs and institutions, admit one-half of the world and support the other half from its largesse -- and be rewarded by the cooperative interference of the God above all gods! This attitude represents liberalism raised to the power of Jacobinism; but Coulter will not see it. Hating liberals as she does, she cannot perceive when a variety of liberal (the anti-imperial kind) is right -- albeit for all the wrong reasons, or even by accident.

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