Fall 1999

If the events of the past year have demonstrated anything it is
the moral and intellectual impoverishment of the American people.
From Monica to Littleton the tragic consequences of this fact have
been played out on a dizzying scale. Sadly, the road back from Avernus
is long and arduous. Moral character and habits of responsible freedom
require vision and discipline. As Irving Babbitt observed, "The
basis for right conduct is not reasoning but experience, and experience
much wider than that of the individual, the secure possession of
which can result only from the early acquisition of right habits."
One way to begin instilling right habits and nurturing young imaginations
is through classic literature. Good stories help to widen our store
of experience. They clarify vision and inspire discipline through
the presentation of attractive and compelling examples of character
and responsible behavior. This is all too lacking in our nation’s
schools and curricula, to say nothing of the images that permeate
popular culture.

Two recent books aimed at filling this void are Vigen Guroian’s
Tending the Heart of Virtue and Louise Cowen and Os Guinness’
Invitation to the Classics. Gilbert Meilaender considers
Guroian’s insightful reading of classic children’s stories,
and, more generally, "the significance of stories for the moral
life." Amy Fahey highlights the strengths and weaknesses of
Drs. Cowen andGuinness’ collection of literary classics oriented
toward stirring belief in the common reader.

Also in this University Bookman, David Whalen and William
Hay turn a critical eye toward major new works by Harold Bloom and
Daniel Boorstin, while David Bobb applauds the efforts of two prominent
civil libertarians to shine a light in the dark corridors of today’s
"shadow university." This number concludes with examinations
of three figures whose imaginative output offer prophetic insight
and present a compelling vision of the good—C. S. Lewis, Malcolm
Muggeridge, and, perhaps surprisingly, Vincent van Gogh.