Emmett Tyrrell

As for the past, I am a 1920s gent, socially and literarily. The 1920s were abundant with good writing, journalistically and literarily. I already have mentioned Mencken and Nathan. As for the more timeless work, I read Ernest Hemingway, particularly "A Farewell to Arms," "The Sun Also Rises" and "For Whom the Bell Tolls." I would not spend 15 minutes with him, if he were alive today, but he could write. (His short stories are also very fine.) So could F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I reread "The Great Gatsby" and "Tender Is the Night" from time to time. William Faulkner is sublime; "The Bear," "As I Lay Dying," "Intruder in the Dust," "Absalom, Absalom!" and "The Sound and the Fury" are all masterworks. Also, Sinclair Lewis was an amazingly good novelist if a deficient thinker. I read him from time to time.

Among the Europeans, I favor "The Brothers Karamazov," by Feodor Dostoyevsky, and anything by Joseph Conrad. I especially like "Under Western Eyes." "The Charterhouse of Parma," by Stendhal, is superb, especially the opening scene on horseback at Waterloo. I have read William Shakespeare with relish, especially the comedies and the histories, and I reread Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales" every decade at least and Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote," too. It would be very lax of me not to include the poetry of W.B. Yeats, though I shall leave his stuff about spiritualism and the monkey glands out of consideration. Mencken thought poetry to be mostly nonsense, but he was up to his old tricks. Yeats is always worth reading, and let me heave in T.S. Eliot.

I read Edward Gibbon, Thomas Babington Macaulay and Winston Churchill, and an especially illuminating book about Churchill and the postwar period is "In Command of History: Churchill Fighting and Writing the Second World War," by David Reynolds. Martin Gilbert's biography of the great man is marvelous; I dipped into it frequently during The American Spectator's jolly war with the Clintons. Martin has actually improved over the years. Paul Johnson's "Modern Times," "The Birth of the Modern" and "A History of the American People" are splendid efforts at revisionist history, but if one wants the conventional reading, I urge Arthur Schlesinger on almost anything. He is a conventional liberal but an elegant writer.

For social science, I have found Edward Banfield, particularly "The Unheavenly City," extremely useful. His analysis is a bracing antidote to our statist friends. Milton Friedman is the final word on the subject. A collection of his journalism would be useful, but a handy guide to his thought is "Capitalism and Freedom." Let me finish with a philosophical work, the works of Aristotle, particularly "Politics."

The lady from C-SPAN also wanted to know what I am reading now. That would be Ron Chernow's "Washington: A Life." It is a great book about a great man. And before I go, let me recommend "Solar," by Ian McEwan. It is a sendup of the environmental movement almost as effective as this frigid winter.

Emmett Tyrrell

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and co-author of Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House.
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