Magazine November 2, 2020, Issue

Love the Past: Alan Jacobs in New Book on the Value of Reading the Classics

Members of the public read in Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge, Mass., March 26, 2011. (Daderot/Wikimedia)
Breaking Bread with the Dead: A Reader’s Guide to a More Tranquil Mind, by Alan Jacobs (Penguin Press, 192 pp., $25)

‘A book is a mirror,” an 18th-century aphorist wrote. “If an ass looks into it, you can’t expect an apostle to look out.” Quote this line with approval to college students now and you’ll court cancellation. Yet the arrow hits the mark cleanly. Much of formal education over the past 50 years or so, especially in the humanities, has become a delusive exercise in mass evasion of this discomfiting truth. At one time the purpose of education was to enhance and even transform the essence of the human being peering back at us in the mirror; now its purpose is

This article appears as “It Isn’t Even Past” in the November 2, 2020, print edition of National Review.

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Tracy Lee Simmons is the author of Climbing Parnassus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin.

In This Issue

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The Week

The Week

At an event in Miami, Biden asserted that if Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed to the Supreme Court, “she may very well move to overrule Roe.”

Most Popular

Elections

Vote Your Conscience

At the 2016 Republican convention, Senator Ted Cruz spoke a controversial phrase: “vote your conscience.” I think about this phrase, this idea, fairly often. I’m not one to give advice on voting (or much else). But when asked for advice, I usually say, “Vote your conscience.” Sweet conscience! One of ... Read More
Elections

Vote Your Conscience

At the 2016 Republican convention, Senator Ted Cruz spoke a controversial phrase: “vote your conscience.” I think about this phrase, this idea, fairly often. I’m not one to give advice on voting (or much else). But when asked for advice, I usually say, “Vote your conscience.” Sweet conscience! One of ... Read More
Music

Stevie Nicks, Like Springsteen, Preaches and Preens

In the 1970s, Stevie Nicks and Bruce Springsteen made impressions on pop-music culture with romantic rock landmarks, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album and Springsteen’s Born to Run. But their new 2020 releases, Nicks’s single “Show Them the Way” and Springsteen’s Letter to You film and album, make the ... Read More
Music

Stevie Nicks, Like Springsteen, Preaches and Preens

In the 1970s, Stevie Nicks and Bruce Springsteen made impressions on pop-music culture with romantic rock landmarks, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album and Springsteen’s Born to Run. But their new 2020 releases, Nicks’s single “Show Them the Way” and Springsteen’s Letter to You film and album, make the ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More
Law & the Courts

The Kavanaugh Court

If Justice Barrett votes as her mentor Justice Scalia did, she will be part of an ascendant conservative majority on the Supreme Court. What kinds of decisions can we expect from this majority? Short answer: Ask Brett Kavanaugh. Contrary to how journalists frame each seat change on the Court, comparing the new ... Read More