In this celebration of what Kauffman calls America's "traditionalist rebels," passages of considerable eloquence are all the more arresting precisely because they appear in a work otherwise characterized by such unrestrained jollity.
Kauffman's moving tribute to the Kentucky farmer, poet and pacifist Wendell Berry, for example, is as fine an essay as one is likely to find in American journalism today. It is also an astute work of historical analysis.
Challenging the conventional wisdom from Frederick Jackson Turner to Jack Kerouac, Kauffman offers a useful counter-thesis. "The careless have always been the first to pick up and move -- a coward's game, no matter what the mythmakers tell us," he writes. "As romantic as prairie schooners and the Hesperian exodus to the fruited plain may be, the real honor resides with those who stayed put. They were not timid souls, afraid of a challenge, but the real heroes of the settling of America."
Caelum et Terra does as well:
Besides, anarchist or not, Mr. Kauffman is no ideologue. His book contains paeans to anarchists, certainly (Mother Jones, Thoreau, Dorothy Day, Paul Goodman), but also to Catholic liberals (Eugene McCarthy, Daniel Patrick Moynihan), socialists (Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas), regionalist artists (Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry), antiwar farmer-poets (Wendell Berry), disaffected Republican operatives (Karl Hess) and many even more unclassifiable thinkers, dreamers, and hell-raisers. Kauffman finds his affinities in humanity, not ideology, in those who love land, home, locality and real souls with real faces more than abstractions.
Bill Kauffman's Look Homeward, America will no doubt be categorized with Rod Dreher's Crunchy Cons, as both books tweak conventional conservatism.
Or rather, Dreher tweaks.