Mother Culture Selection, March 2016
The first time I read this book, I think I added about 60 quotes to my commonplace book. It is just that good. Here’s a sampling:
Consider what happens to people whose night skies are spangled with constellations like The Master of Hestviken, or Moby-Dick, or The Brothers Karamazov. These people are hard to fool. They are also hard to enlist in pursuit of the trivial and ephemeral. It is as if we had given them a powerful telescope atop a high mountain, and shown them how to use it, and directed their attention to the Orion nebula, and once they had learned to do so and to love the beauty they found there, expected them to look at light bulbs on a marquee.
(Dickens) arranged his wild horde of characters as the intricately ordered parts of a living thing. If you don’t want your child to write long novels wherein each character plays an orchestrated part to bring about the effect of the whole, you should keep him away from abstract structures generally. Best to sit him in front of a piece of paper and ask him to write about what he feels. Self-expression is the finest antidote for a perky imagination ever invented.
They will never have the linguistic wrenches, pliers, hammers, and chisels to fashion a grammatical spree . . .
A developed memory is a wondrous and terrible storehouse of things seen and heard and done. It can do what no mere search engine on the internet can do. It can call up apparently unrelated things at once, molding them into a whole impression, or a new thought.
People who can organize themselves and accomplish something as devilishly complicated as a good ballgame are hard to herd around. They can form societies of their own. They become men and women, not human resources. They can be free.
The book is written in the style of Screwtape; ostensibly, the author assumes that the reader WANTS to destroy the imagination of his or her child. In the process, he offers many scathing critiques on modern child-rearing and educational practices. Of course, all the while, he is giving tried-and-true counsel to those of us who long to raise children with noble imaginations, filled to the brim with all that is good and true and beautiful.
You should definitely put this book on your Mother Culture reading list!
I’ll leave you with this excellent review from Dr. Jason Edwards (Grove City College):
Esolen is a humanist scholar in the highest sense of the term, for from him, you will not learn about the classics but from them. Like all the best storytellers (and humanists), Esolen is close, personal friends with seemingly all the other great storytellers, so their tales become his, and he our guide. Homer, Herodotus, Virgil, Livy, Dante, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, and Tolkien—to name but a few of Esolen’s closest confidantes—have shared their wisdom with him, and he shares their stories with the love and authority that only a friend can. Esolen’s life has clearly been a life well read, and the value of that inevitably washes over the reader with both shaming and inspiring effect. Read the rest at The University Bookman