Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Have No Doubts, "America-Lite" Is Heavy Stuff.

Despite several tasks to be completed this week (blogging, correspondence, luncheon meetings, some individual visits to seniors, praying at the abortion clinic, dentist appointments, lawn work, and three “When Swing Was King” presentations), Claire and I also have to finish reading The Chequer Board by Nevil Shute for our book club’s discussion party Saturday night.

But, on top of all this, I’ve found myself doing some other reading too.  A couple of the books (The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne) Claire downloaded free on her Kindle for me.  I’m reading them in preparation for a lecture ("Frankenstein's Notebooks: The Mad Scientist in Literature") which I’m giving at the Providential History Festival coming up on September 14 and 15. 

But there's another book I'm afraid I couldn't help but get into this week and it's one of the most insightful and stimulating books I’ve come across in a long time -- David Gelernter’s America-Lite. It is a pretty short thing (182 pages) but it is a deeply profound look at the cultural collapse of America. However, not only do I highly recommend it but I plan on dropping in excerpts here at Vital Signs Blog over the next several days until you’re convinced you need to read it too!

Here’s the first in that series of excerpts…

* “In the 1950s, the proportion of American children born to unmarried mothers was stable at 5 percent.  During the ‘60’s it started moving upward, and by 1975, when E. B. White spoke for a nation in anguish, it had reached 10 percent.  And it kept rising: to 30 percent in 1995 and 41 percent today.  (The 41 percent includes 73 percent of non-Hispanic black children, 53 Hispanic and 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites.)  This is bad news for American children, as we have known for decades.”

* “While the count of illegitimate babies was rising like an apparition out of the desert, the eminent sociologist James Q. Wilson wrote in 1995, ‘There is no more radical cultural division in all of history than that between the attachment ordinary people have for the family and the hostility intellectuals display towards it.’"

* "Many people suppose that intellectuals (as Auden wrote of poets) make nothing happen.  But what if they do make things happen?  Where would  that put us?  Up a creek is the right answer.  Patriotism has been beaten bloody and the family is on the ropes.  It has been a great epoch for American intellectuals.”