This issue represents the end result of a half-century of conservative reflection on the important books in our cultural conversation. When Russell Kirk founded this journal in 1960, he faced a world beset by liberal ideology, with small place, if any at all, for conservative viewpoints, let alone policy prescriptions.
In the 50 years in which the University Bookman has published, the world has changed. Conservatives, from being a political minority, grew to challenge the liberal behemoth and took power in 1980, only to see the movement fracture again in the mid-1990s over the culture wars, and again after September 11 in the wake of the rhetorical “war on terror” and the very real wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The mission of the Bookman, however, has remained the same: to provide serious reflection on serious books. As mentioned in our last issue, the Bookman will now be appearing primarily in an online form, accessible here at the Kirk Center. At the site, we expect to continue to post essays, reviews, interviews, and other contributions from our varied and learned writers. We still need your support, however. Although moving to a non-print format reduces our expenses, it does not eliminate them, and we must be able to pay for the very best contributors and reviewers that we can. In addition, we do hope to offer occasional print issues, which will not be possible without your support.
This final print issue is a distillation of many of the themes that have occupied the Bookman these past five decades. We have reviews of books covering many aspects of the Western intellectual tradition, from poets such as Robert Frost to statesman George Kennan, explorers like the great and almost forgotten Champlain to historian John Lukacs. Joseph Stuart reviews a book on Frost from Peter Stanlis, a longtime supporter of the journal, and Thomas Bertonneau contributes his reflections on the noir tradition. And we continue our more particular exploration of the conservative tradition, here and abroad, including studies of Peter Viereck and German conservative Caspar von Schrenck-Notzing.
As Russell Kirk points out in the fine, elegiac essay we reprint here, political controversy is not—and is not ever—the final purpose of thought or of action. The conservative recognizes the existence of transcendence, and that politics, though it can meliorate the harshness of life, cannot transfer that transcendence into a heaven on earth. What we can do, as Kirk says, is to “brighten the corner where you are,” by infusing our daily life with grace, culture, and tradition. Lo these many years, the Bookman has tried to do that amid the cultural wastelands of the last century, and will continue to do so in this one.
Gerald J. Russello
Posted: November 13, 2010 in Editor’s Notes.