A Year in Reading: Norman Rush


I consider George Scialabba’s For the Republic: Political Essays the most necessary book of the year 2013. Our political mise en scène has metamorphosed of late into a dark carnival (the phrase is Ray Bradbury’s), confusing and ominous from any vantage point. Over the years, George Scialabba has consistently been among the fairest, smartest, and most trenchant assessors of our political culture. Usefully, this collection focusses on some of the marquee commentators and theorists (among them Thomas Friedman, Michael Sandel, Roger Scruton, Jonathan Haidt, Stanley Fish) who have been influential in the discussion of political policy issues. Scialabba gives credit where it is due, but he is lucidly unsparing in his critiques. Classic presences like George Orwell, Ignazio Silone, and Adam Smith are revalued. A few essays illuminate aspects of the author’s intellectual evolution, his family background, his struggle with clinical depression. These are brave writings. Scialabba publishes in an eclectic array of periodicals, and it’s good to have pieces he published in Salmagundi and Commonweal brought together with those from The Nation and The Boston Globe, so that they may interact. This book is full of intellectual fire.

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