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Author: Matthew J. Franck (Matthew Franck)

About the Author
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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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Isolation Bookshelf: Words Matter

Each of the books I mention here can help us to be conscious—to be “in the know,” which is what Austen meant by the word—thus using the gift of speech in ways that accord with our nature as “the reflexive animal,” as Lewis calls us, governed by “the inner lawgiver” (Lewis again) of our conscience. And these conjoined obligations—to our nature and to our speech—are why even pronouns are a field of battle that truth-tellers should not surrender.

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Isolation Bookshelf: Laugh Out Loud with P.G. Wodehouse

Wodehouse’s work, from virtually any period of his long career, is amazingly consistent. One learns after a while that when one begins a Wodehouse story, satisfaction is guaranteed. Like a fresh whisky and soda, his work promises an easing of the tensions of daily life, an invitation to merriment, and a quiet contentment that in the end all will be well.

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Isolation Cinema: The Films of John Ford

John Ford’s America is a good deal like Ford himself—loud, brawling, and hard-charging. Ford’s Americans are also honorable, self-sacrificing, and faithful to their promises. That’s not the whole truth about America, not by a long shot. But it’s true enough that in John Ford’s films, we will forever see something of ourselves.

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Isolation Bookshelf: Great Cases in Constitutional Law

Chief Justice John Roberts complained five years ago, in the Obergefell marriage case, of some of his colleagues’ “extravagant conception of judicial supremacy.” To understand how such a conception has come to grip the judicial mind, studies of some of the Supreme Court’s most notable cases make for instructive reading.

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Too Many Abraham Lincolns

Like Abraham Lincoln, a growing number of our young people are “unchurched.” As a result, our “us vs. them” politics functions as a substitute for religious observance, membership, and devotion. If there were more authentic religious practice in our society, there might be less of the bitterly partisan politics that divide our country.

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Presidential Self-Pardons, the Framers at Philadelphia, and the Work of Originalism

As the late Justice Scalia was fond of pointing out, the views of individual lawmakers in the midst of debate are not themselves the law we must interpret. Neither are the votes taken in a deliberative body rightly viewed as votes on anyone’s interpretation of the text under discussion. The text that they passed, not what they said about what they passed, is the law.

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