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Author: Matthew J. Franck (Matthew Franck)

About the Author
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The Bookshelf: Reading in the Faith

My ignorance of many important things gnaws at me, as does the consciousness that the rest of my life is not time enough to learn what I want to know. Lately my thoughts have turned to authors with whom I have some acquaintance but want to know better—specifically those philosophers and theologians who have shaped and transmitted the Catholic faith through the ages.

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The Bookshelf: The Comfort Food of Series Fiction

When the hits keep on coming, it’s difficult for series writers to resist the market demand. Success builds the writer’s treadmill, and it can lack an “Off” switch. Perhaps “keep them coming back for more” should be replaced as the series writer’s motto by “make them wish there had been more.”

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The Bookshelf: The Undiscipline of Political Science

The ideas that the truth about the human condition is radically contingent on history (historicism) and that we can speak rationally only about facts and not at all about “values” or moral principles (positivism) lead inexorably to a failure of all conviction, and ultimately to nihilism. What results is fanaticism: the impulse to bend others to one’s will, despite—or precisely because of—the lack of any rational foundation for one’s preferences.

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The Bookshelf: Who Is in the American Canon?

Moving books home has turned my mind toward publishers that seem to be of high value because of the enduring importance of their books. One such is Liberty Fund, which specializes in classic conservative and libertarian texts in politics and economics. Another is the Library of America, which has a broad mission to publish (in its own words) “America’s greatest writing.”

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The Bookshelf: Books That Stick

Some of the best perspective-altering reading experiences I’ve had in recent years have come from books that I read well outside the bounds of my own research. Nonetheless they made their way into my thinking and writing in various ways—they “stuck.” And books that “stick” in this way we are apt to recommend whenever an opportunity arises.

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The Bookshelf: Summer Experiments and Attempts

Summer—a time of lounging in a shaded hammock between two trees, or under a beach umbrella—is a great time for bite-sized nonfiction. With Public Discourse taking a publishing hiatus for the week following Independence Day, now is a perfect time to stretch out with some small provocation of thought.

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The Bookshelf: The Pleasures of the Table

One of the vital experiences of which the current pandemic robbed us for too long is the dinner party with friends. Reading about food, too, can be a pleasure in its own right, whether one tries out daring new recipes or not. My small kitchen library has a few notable classics that are as interesting for their authors’ voices as for their instruction in preparing dishes.

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Isolation Bookshelf: The Pleasures of Rereading

I have called books and authors “friends,” and that they are. Aristotle tells us the highest form of friendship is that which aims at another’s good as though it were one’s own, for in truth it is indistinguishable from one’s own. We reread our favorite books in gratitude, not only for the repeated pleasure of the experience but to know once again the good that our old friends have selflessly done us.

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Racism Is Real. But Is “Systemic Racism”? That Time I Was Published by Newsweek—For Two Hours

The opinion editor of Newsweek should be commended for striving to publish a diversity of views at the site, but its editor-in-chief committed journalistic malpractice by taking down an essay already published in order to reschedule it when it could be “balanced” by a view less challenging to the site’s readers.

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Isolation Bookshelf: Teachers and Influences on the American Project

In this strange season of the academic year, as classes begin with students and teachers scattered about and many gathering only “virtually” through their computer screens, my mind is cast back to a fall semester 44 years ago, when I arrived as a freshman at Virginia Wesleyan College (now University). It seems an age of...

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Isolation Bookshelf: Hail to the Chief

Can the American people and their representatives set aside their immediate interests and attachments and “think constitutionally” about the presidency, and about how we choose presidents? Some scholars hope so. But the passionate partisanship of the most attentive Americans, and the inattentiveness and apathy of the least partisan Americans, make this hope seem forlorn indeed.

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Isolation Cinema: Crazy Love

What is it that makes screwball comedies so much fun? With their manic scripts and their depiction of characters of both sexes who will say anything and do anything for love, they bring together men and women—whose senses of humor often differ sharply—to laugh at the same crazy antics, and to see what mad joy love can be. In the summer of COVID, as we stay home with our loved ones, the screwball may be just what the doctor ordered.

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Isolation Bookshelf: History Outside the Academy

For reasons that pass all understanding, modern academic disciplines are where English prose goes to die. Fortunately, profound and compelling historical writing has a history of its own that predates the modern research university by two and a half millennia, stretching back to Herodotus in the fifth century BC. Such a tradition is resistant to the chloroform of the modern academy, so long as gifted storytellers find publishers and readers.

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