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Andrew, That was one of the most thoughtful and uplifting reviews I've read in ages. You write that after 20 years, culture seems more important to you than politics. Story of my life. I'm still the token Republican and conservative everywhere I go, and I'm happy to share a cold beer with folks who respect but disagree with my opinion. It puzzles me that the stuff that, as you write, "is simply beautiful -- where the joy is" -- is cordoned off by political liberals. Neither a liberal or conservative observation, I like Wordsworth: "The little unremembered acts of kindness and love are the best parts of a person's life." Cheers.
Great point: "The irrelevant—the stuff that doesn’t matter but is simply beautiful—the music, the poetry, the pictures and storytelling—the arts—that’s where all the joy is, and it’s the joy that seems more urgent to me as the years pass."
And whoever controls the culture controls the hearts of the people. Steyn's political takes make me laugh and think (read his recent column on Rep. Weiner, for example), but his cultural perspective makes me pause and reflect and wonder. In our rapid-fire culture of constant amusements, we don't do enough of the latter. And we don't have enough critics like Steyn who can provoke it from mere fluff.
Then again, Steyn might be one-of-a-kind.
Thanks for the column, Andrew. As good as its subject.
Indeed. For me, much learning in each "Song of the Week" or his excellent obituaries.
"The dying of things—of art forms and civilizations as well as people—seems to me the inevitable and steady state of the world: a point of view that leaves me prone more to melancholy than to panic."
Our civilization is waning, like you said, "Systems of liberty never last more than a century or two". You are clear on what causes the dying; "the infections of power hunger and corruption at the top and dependency, laziness, and envy down below".
What, in your opinion, causes the birth/growth? (It's clearly ridiculous to imagine that great civilizations are the result of random chance, like the universe and all complicated life forms.) What about identifying, planting, and nurturing whatever the seeds of liberty are, instead of despairing?
This comment relates to The One State Solution although I am not sure that is where it is going.
It is unfortunate that this "article" is actually inadmissible to the Middle East debate even though it is really completely valid. As awful as Israeli society is to its non-Jewish citizens, these citizens don't seem to want to go to any other Middle Eastern state.
And as aparteitish as Jimmy Carter said it was, he did not discuss the openness of any other Middle Eastern state. 75 years ago, Lebanon was a mixed society state. When its Christians began to be attacked absolutely nobody, nobody including the Vatican uttered a public complaint. When almost 1,000,000 Jews were forcibly expelled from their Middle Eastern communities where they had lived for thousands of years, there was no outside claims for their right of return or compensation for their property and businesses that were taken over.
The Japanese, before W W II, believed that all of the bad things described by Hitler about the Jews, would make them ideal for settling in the Northern China that they had just conquered. (See the Fugu Plan) . Maybe Andrew Klavan is really correct
"The stuff that doesn't matter"? You are so wrong. It's "the music, the poetry, the pictures and storetelling -- the arts" keep our spirits, our souls, alive and hopeful, and our minds fresh and open. Certainly NOT politics! And in dark times, which seems to me to be more and more the case of late, they're even more important than ever.
I've added you to my short list of commentators, including Steyn, that I have to read and listen to.
Perhaps your hearing aid is out of tune or operating intermittently because to me Steyn's voice is as pleasing as a meadowlark and as entertaining as a George Carlin. If that is not enough for one man check out his brilliant and copious writings, they are the work of a true genius.
I might add to my previous note, "if you want to improve your courage, emulate Steyn!" Not so easy, that. But courage is the one essential virtue - without it there is nothing. Mark Steyn has plenty of it.
You'll be able to meet Steyn on the National Review cruise in November.
Let the bromance continue!
I greatly admire Mark Steyn, both his writings and his gutsy pugnacity. If you want to improve your own writing, read Steyn!
Mark's accent is amazing. It is neither Canadian nor English nor Irish - the strangest
I have heard this side of Sheboygan Michigan.
I have an automatic reaction system that brings tears to my eyes every time I read something that needs to resonate with my soul. It's as if my body can't trust my brain to acknowledge what I'm reading is meant not only to inform but guide.
This article made me weepy.
Mark Steyn is truly a brilliant writer. Why do we not have more of him.
Well said, Mr Klavan. I enjoy Mr Steyn's writings on all subjects, but like you it seems as I get older I enjoy the joys of what was and, I guess, still is: culture-namely music. I love his song of the week and birthday salutes to a great, but slightly obscure talent articles that he puts out like clockwork. Recently his salute to Hal David was mesmerizing. It seems we are going to hell in a handbasket, but at least Mr. Steyn can remind us profoundly about the merits of our civilization before.
Andrew Klavan certainly has the wit to recognize a kindred spirit.
Okay - brainstorm! Steyn and Klavan return American Musical Theater to its traditional roots with a collaboration that will shake up Broadway, and the world. Klavan writes the play, Steyn writes the tunes and - whammo! Maybe it could be about Steyn's Canadian show trial nightmare. That would be too amazing! Heck, it's always a hit when picking on those wacky Canucks! That'd be some serious iambic pentameter. Love it!
I like Steyn's politics a lot. I am less keen on his love for cheesy broadway numbers. I don't read that stuff any more but, irritatingly, he shoehorns quotes from Oklahoma or Kiss me Kate in his pieces about the decline of the West. Ugggghh!
One of my great joys is listening to Mark when he sits in for Rush. He is the funniest guy on the radio. He can be talking about the most serious subject but ewith that great voice and that rapier, dry wit, he makes even discussing the budget a delight. He is one of a kind, a rare gem in a sea of mediocrity.
Well, typical outstanding and exact article by the GREAT Klavan and this time on the GREAT Mark Steyn. Excellent. Thank you. Colonel Neville.
Steyn is good, but he's a terrible speaker, always stuttering and has a uniquely nasally voice and annoying accent.
Hello, Mr Ostrich,
That's right, dig a big deep hole in the ground and hide yourself from reality. Engage in 'liberal arts' fantasies instead. The majority of us will get on with winning the Third World War.
The only reason I'm reading you is because Mark Steyn linked to your piece. I've long had my doubts about Steyn too. His linking to you doesn't help his case.
I tend to agree with the author, although... Mark Steyn singlehandedly ruined any possibility for cinematic enjoyment with his weekly articles in the Spectator. It was worth it though.
I too would like to meet Mark Steyn. I read everything I can of his commentaries. I discovered him on the internet after I forever turned off the old televison news media programs.
I love Andrew Klavan and I love Mark Steyn so what's not to love in this article?
What Steyn writes is so cogent. I told him after I red America Alone that I was laughing hysterically and then suddenly he was scaring me to death. He said, "Excellent. That's just what I wanted."
I quibble with Steyn in his lack of admiration for Sondheim, whom I also love.
Anyone who wants to bump into Klavan and Steyn at the same time, I recommend that you go on the National Review cruise in November.
you are interested now in the spirit of things? Are you kidding me or what? You now think of culture? When America goes, there will be a bloodbath. It's started in the Middle East already. There will be no culture.
I don't see how one could NOT enjoy Mark Steyn, even if one disagreed with him. Which I don't.
Writing anything about Mark Styne, requires it's own special insight. Andrew, you've made my day...
Of course, if Steyn is correct, there won't be much in the way of our 'culture' to enjoy very soon.
Everything that enhances our culture such as art, music and literature are anathema to our enemies and they are surely gaining ground.
"I want to get at the spirit of human business ...." Yes, indeed! And, by gumbo! Even at his most melancholy, as the chronicler of political and demographic decline, Mr. Steyn's wit and humor evince this joyous spirit, as Mr. Klavan himself does in his PJTV commentaries.
As soon as I finished reading this, I was reminded of a just-released documentary on two hundred years of African-American gospel music ("Rejoice and Shout") which I will be making my way to the West End Cinema in Washington, D.C. to view on June 17th. I expect there will be a lot of joy there. And it will matter far more than the political cesspool that surrounds it, including those who contribute to the African-American portion of it, the Rev. Wrights, Rev. Jacksons, and Rev. Sharptons. In fact, part of the joy will be that the political cesspool will one day be irrelevant and the "simply beautiful" that the documentary chronicles will be all.
And that is worth remembering. And remembering urgently.
"Systems of liberty never last more than a century or two before succumbing to the infections of power hunger and corruption at the top and dependency, laziness, and envy down below."
Not often that you see the very essence of something important encapsulated in one sentence, but here is a fine example. Thank you, Mr. Klavan. This goes in my "Essential Quotes" file.
Lovely thoughts about a (inter)national treasure. Although, to steal a movie line, I've fallen in love with the darker side of his nature.
What a superb piece! Just perfect. Written with a rather "Steynsian" (?) flash to it.
I too feel some of Mr. Klavan's "proprietary feeling" about this subject. Unfortunately, in my case, Mr. Steyn rather foolishly married someone else despite the fact that I've never met him either, and would doubtless be quite tongue-tied if I did.
However, this is really the loveliest of tributes. Wish I could write as well as Mr. Klavan.
You're lucky...20 years enjoying Steyn. I've only had 2 years of the pleasure.
Steyn is one of the funniest writers around.
Mark is by far my favorite commentator on ANY subject. If there is anything he isn't knowledgeable on I am not aware of it. Although he is a lousy singer, he is still entertaining to listen to. Sort of like Hoagy Carmichael even though they sound nothing alike.
Nice article, but I would disagree with Mr Klavan's acceptance of dying civilisations. He correctly states that this is a natural phenomena, but ours is not undergoing a 200 year cycle, it is being murdered in decades. If we cannot halt this then it spells not only the end of Western civilisation, but also that of the entire Caucasian race.
Mr. Klavan and Mr. Steyn are two of my favorite writers. Were I fortunate to be in a room with both, I may have to let shyness overcome me, and flee, before I embarrass myself!
Andy, Andy, Andy: WOW !!!
Mr. Steyn is smart, savvy, disciplined and articulate; truly an exceptional patriot and perhaps without peer. But he needs no praise from me.
A wonderful piece about a wonderful writer.
Mark Steyn writes brilliantly on so many different subjects - American politics, Canadian politics, British politics, music, Broadway - I love it all.
Here in Canada, he is never seen on our so-called national broadcaster, the CBC, which, in my mind, is proof of his importance.