Accolades for Sobran

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One of the best ways to take the measure of someone is to ask his three favorite books or authors. Much of who we are is what we read – and much too can be said about which books we eschew.

I started on my “intellectual journey” or my cheap equivalent pretty late, my senior year of high school. Last year all I did was tear up all of my rotten, half-formed presuppositions about the world and carefully hammer in new ones.

Unlearning is more difficult than learning, but at least now I have some book recommendations heftier than Harry Potter.

For a while, two of my best friends tried to reel me into the whole Twilight craze, too. My neighbor lent me her copy; one afternoon I gingerly peeled apart its worn covers and suddenly found myself in a bizarre, childish world where girls sat around, open-mouthed, staring dully into space until a vampire blinded them with…his sparkling chest.

After the first hundred pages, I hid the book under my bed where it choked to death on the dust.

I wasted a lot of time. Contemporary teen “literature” doesn’t engage anyone’s intellect. Between children’s literature and adult novels and nonfiction lies a void that won’t be filled by the likes of Stephanie Meyer. Some dim sense of this entropy in the literary world pushed me into the non-fiction section and the Internet, where I stumbled upon Joseph Sobran.

"Sobran’s Web site is www.sobran.com" Courtesy of mises.org

My best friend’s dad had e-mailed me a link to his most well-known essay, “The Reluctant Anarchist,” but it wasn’t until months later that I began to read his other letters, columns and newsletters. His newsletters were slightly dated; his health kept him from publishing them after 2008 or so.

Still I visited his Web site more than I logged onto Facebook or my e-mail, so rich and varied was the material. Rarely is it such a pleasure to trawl through an intricate treatise on foreign policy or Catholic theology.

After being exposed to a mind like that, I wasn’t sure if the usual political columns I read would read with the same verve. But Sobran’s insights lit up the rest of the political world.

While his friend Ann Coulter indiscriminately takes a sword to any liberal claim, tiny or huge, he carefully dissects the slippery, solipsistic inanity of his opponents, especially abortion advocates.

An English major, he is ever-alert to the quiet foreshadowing of the newest hedonistic fad and its supporters; he traces the trail of slime the sexual revolution left on history from Margret Sanger’s early campaign for contraception and 1930 Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Church, which permitted the use of contraception within marriage, and also unearths long-buried truths about the neoconservatives and talk radio.

His wit is also as incisive as the English insults he admires. When reviewing a series of fellow Catholic Gary Wills’ works, he remarked, “He is incapable of writing a bad sentence or a good book.” He sums up contemporary atheism in what he calls “The Phil Donahue Argument”: Mean old nuns whacked my knuckles in school; ergo, God does not exist.

While the rest of the conservative movement was cheering President George W. Bush’s rampage in the Middle East and his disastrous domestic policies, Sobran idly mused that he could imagine a movie titled, “Mr. Bush Goes to Washington and America Goes to Hell.”

Never have I ever been so indebted to one writer. Sobran’s quietly persuasive logic is a joy to read and reread. He has been called the unwelcome prophet, and he’s been rattling the modern world for more than thirty years now.

Had I not been introduced to his writings, I’d still be wandering through the library, looking for children’s books to read.

Avoiding his works would have left me ignorant and impoverished.

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