It is with great pleasure and a deep sense of gratitude that I assume
the role of editor of The University Bookman. I want to extend
my thanks to Jeff Nelson, Annette Kirk, the Earhart Foundation, the Bookman advisory
board, and all the staff at the Kirk Center and ISI for their support
of the Bookman and their help in preparing this new issue. I
am thankful for the successful efforts of my predecessors Jeff Nelson
and Ian Crowe to produce a journal that is consistently principled and
thought-provoking and they are both examples worthy of following, as I
hope to do.

My familiarity with the Bookman as both avid reader and eventual
contributor spans more than a decade. During college and law school, it
was ever an oasis of serious ideas and a commitment to ideas and the moral
imagination. My discovery of the Bookman occurred in tandem with
my introduction to the works of Russell Kirk, the founder of this journal
and a strong intellectual influence on me. My stewardship of the Bookman will
be guided by his insight that what he called “the traditional conservative
symbols” had been disrupted by the ideological predations of the
last two centuries; a new vision rooted in tradition and the moral imagination
is needed to redeem the time.

The Bookman recommences publication at an important time, as
book reviewing has found itself in the midst of a cultural skirmish. In
early 2003, Heidi Julavitz, the editor of the book-review magazine, The
started several years ago by novelist David Eggers and
colleagues, issued a manifesto on reviewing. In it, she makes a plea against
needlessly negative reviewing, which she calls “snark,” because
it distracts readers from the merits of books and focuses instead on personalities
and the quest for publicity. Instead, Julavitz called for a “dialogue” among
books, reviewers, and readers that focuses on the books themselves. She
sees the book review as a way to “remind people of writers who were
overlooked last month or thirty years ago.”

Of course, this is exactly what the Bookman has been doing for
over forty years: treating books respectfully and seriously, without needless
antagonism, and focusing on works that have or will withstand the test
of time. The Bookman takes its stand with those who believe in
the power of the imagination to redeem the time, and we stand against
those cultural destroyers who argue that the fad of the moment, expressed
rapid-fire, can substitute for thought. Contrary to the assertions of
some intellectuals, tradition and the imagination are not mere Marxist
superstructures or postmodern playthings, but the sources of a society
of ordered freedom. As for “snark,” conservatives have had
enough directed at them that they should be wary of succumbing to that

T. S. Eliot wrote in the final issue of his journal, the Criterion, that “the
small and obscure papers and reviews” bore responsibility for “the
continuity of culture.” It was they that would “keep critical
thought alive” amidst troubled times. And despite the wonders of
the Internet and the variety of multimedia spectacles that are supposed
to replace “obsolete” books, we believe Eliot still, as did
Kirk when he founded this journal. Books, and the periodicals that engage
them seriously, will continue to have a place in cultural debate, and
the Bookman seeks to be an engaged participant.

Our current number, I think, exemplifies Eliot’s dictum. We highlight
neglected figures, such as Fr. Vincent McNabb and John Jay, who each in
his own way illustrates how much has changed in the way the West conceives
of itself and its own political life. Tom Bertonneau discusses composers
forgotten by elite musical opinion but who nevertheless represent the
best of Western musical tradition, which combines sophistication with
populism. Stephen Presser’s review of Bruce Frohnen’s collection
of important American documents reminds us how much of our history elites
have tried to consign to the memory hole. We also take a look at the prospects
for conservatism in Russia. Over the coming issues, we will continue to
seek out authors who should be remembered, and to feature books defending
what Kirk called the Permanent Things.

Of course, a journal such as this is really only as good as its contributors
and readers allow. The Bookman is lucky to have attracted excellent
writers over the years, but we are also lucky to have retained a loyal
community of engaged and dedicated readers, who have come to us through
word of mouth and our long relationship with National Review.
I encourage you to contact us through regular mail or at {encode=””} about
the Bookman as we go forward together.