On Reading

“When we read, we are not looking for new ideas, but to see our own thoughts given the seal of confirmation on the printed page. The words that strike us are those that awake an echo in a zone we have already made our own—the place where we live—and the vibration enables us to find fresh starting points within ourselves.”

Cesare Pavese, This Business of Living: Diaries 1935-1950

HT: Terry Teachout

On Humor

What Terry Teachout writes about the post-modern comedy could just as easily apply to Forensics.

The endless-loop Irony Lite of today’s sitcoms wears me out. It’s mostly nothing more than fast talking heavily sauced with needless-to-say-we-all-agree-about-everything attitude. And it’s not funny. Attitude is not humor. References are not humor. Sniggering is not humor. Above all, clubbishness is not humor. True humor doesn’t exclude—it includes. It reminds us, ever and always, that we, too, partake in the common dilemma. Even in farce, which hinges on the public humiliation of an unsympathetic person, we’re always thinking, “Oh, God, that might be me up there.” And cringing.

Art gives voice to what?

More from the WSJ

Now that the boutique atheism of such aggressive secularists as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens has become chic, you might well ask yourself why any unbelieving artist would bother to turn his hand to the making of religious art.

Terry Teachout explores how non-believers produce sometimes extraordinary, transcendent art. It’s not just that the unbeliever creates transcendent art (and they do) but also what the significance of that transcendence is. Is this merely a trick of narration,a ventriloquism aping the language of the faithful? Or does the art itself point to something beyond itself, a Truth that makes this true. As Teachout notes this latter seems to be Ralph Vaughn Williams’ view,

 “Now to assert that these things are exactly as I have described would not be reasonable. But that these things, or something like them, are true concerning the souls of men and their habitations after death, especially since the soul is shown to be immortal, this seems to me fitting and worth risking to believe. For the risk is honourable, and a man should sing such things in the manner of an incantation to himself.”