Russell Kirk, as every reader of the University Bookman knows well, was a man of letters. Kirk’s books, essays, lectures, reviews, and stories deservedly have received much attention, but he is not known today as a columnist.
I thought this was a shame, since surely other students and general inquirers might be at least curious about Kirk’s journalistic writing. With that in mind, I found myself driving from my home in southeastern Michigan up to Mecosta—one of the few places with a complete collection of Kirk’s columns. Kirk’s “To the Point” columns are currently available only in newspaper archives, so my idea was to transition the best of them into digital format. With the help of Ryan Shinkel, a philosophy student from the University of Michigan, I spent some time digitizing the columns and selecting a few to post on the University Bookman site.
“To the Point” was syndicated through the Los Angeles Times for thirteen years, from 1962 to 1975, and ran five days a week in one hundred newspapers nationally. (Contemporary columnists pale in comparison to this frequency.) Writing with brevity and sharp wit, Kirk stays true to his column’s title. His thoughts are a good mixture of pragmatic life advice, such as “On Becoming a Journalist”; historical argument, for example in “Our Wisest President”; and educational philosophy, such as in “Why Study Latin.” Frequently occurring in Kirk’s column writing is his perceptive moral imagination and his veneration for the “permanent things.”
Sadly, Kirk ended his syndicated column when Piety Hill, his Italianate home, burned down on Ash Wednesday in 1975, causing Kirk to discontinue his lesser writings to focus on rebuilding.
“My oldest friend was burnt on Ash Wednesday night and buried by a bulldozer next day,” Kirk wrote for his March 3, 1975 column, one of his last. He concluded with: “Ash Wednesday comes to us all, but after that comes Easter.”
For many years, the columns have lain hidden in newspaper archives. But now, a select few have been unearthed and will be featured on this site for the reader’s pleasure.
Derek Draplin has searched the archives for selections from Russell Kirk’s thirteen-year run as a syndicated columnist. Here he introduces what will be a periodic feature for the Bookman.