The Countermarch

A Generation in Need of Editing

Many years ago, as the luncheon speaker at a meeting of the John Randolph Club in Rockford, Illinois, Tom Sheeley gave a thought-provoking lecture interspersed with a splendid performance of classical guitar.  His main theme was the need for form in art; and all these years later, one line stands out in my memory: “What is creativity without editing?”

Later that afternoon, while introducing the founder, editor, and chief author of a certain Catholic magazine, I turned Tom’s question into a joke, with the title of the magazine as the punch line.  My use of his words was good for a quick laugh, but the question Tom raised is one I have returned to many times over the years in moments of serious reflection.

As I noted last month, conservatives in the United States have long ceded the realms of literature and art (here broadly construed to include all forms of imaginative media, including music, theater, and film) to the forces of the left.  First neoconservatives and, now, increasingly self-identified paleoconservatives have dismissed or even ridiculed Russell Kirk’s emphasis on the moral imagination.  The time is too late, they argue; the stakes are too high; if we spend our time on the long, hard work of creating a culture that can properly form the moral imagination of the rising generation,...

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