Books Are Our Salvation

Those of us who grew up before the
time of virtual reality got inspiration from literature
and biography. A combative scholar, a good story, the
life of an achiever were all part of the mish-mash that
formed character.

It is still possible to turn off
the screen and to pick up a book. Literate Southerners
could do worse than to try James P. Cantrell`s

How Celtic Culture Invented Southern Literature
The South has a cultural distinctiveness that Cantrell
identifies as Celtic in origin. Cantrell takes the
reader on a compelling analysis of William Gilmore
Simms, William Faulkner, the Agrarians, and provides a
chapter on Margaret Mitchell`s

Gone With the Wind
, which he shows to be real
literature and not merely a ladies` romance.

An example of Celtic literature,
particularly for children whose parents would like them
introduced to the written word, is Linda Jane Roberts`

The Robelinde Diary.
This is an enchanting story
of a heroine who helps a beleaguered people to face down
evil. The Robelinde Diary has wonderful
alliteration, and the prose evokes a sense of
experiencing a long ago time.

Oxford University Press offers
William Taussig Scott and Martin Moleski`s

of Michael Polanyi, a biography decades in
the making. Hungarian born, Polanyi was one of the most
important physical chemists of the early 20th century.
He had distinguished scientific careers in Germany and
England before turning to philosophy. He drew on his
experience as a scientist pursuing truth to develop a
seminal epistemology that reconciles all aspects of

The biography is fascinating on
many levels. There is the life of the scientist who is
able to recognize important phenomena in need of
explanation. There is the Hungarian culture that
cultivated the life of the mind and the tolerant
inquiring personality. There is the philosopher who
renewed human confidence in knowing and being. Polanyi
was a polymath whose life and achievements are a
wonderful spur to intellectual ambition.

Sometimes it is important to get
away without having to physically go anywhere. It is
possible for adults to escape into The Robelinde
if they can get it out of the hands of their
children. Another good choice is Alexander McCall
Smith`s Botswana novels,

The No. 1 Ladies` Detective Agency
being the
title that identifies the series. Smith was a professor
of law at the University of Botswana. His love of the
land and delight in the simple life of the people shows
in his stories of Mma Ramotswe and her assistant, Mma
Makutsi, dealing with problems in their own lives while
helping others solve mysteries that trouble their lives.

It takes training and imagination
to create a popular video game. Playing games can be so
thrilling that it becomes addictive. I read recently
that there are now clinics, or detox centers, where kids
are treated for addiction to video games.

From what little I know of video
gaming, it appears to be the case that even the best and
most challenging of the games are soon displaced by new
games. This does not happen to books. A good piece of
writing has a shelf life for generations, even
centuries. Dostoevsky, Balzac, and Dickens have no
replacements. A good book can be taken down and read
again and be passed on to following generations.
Literary critics interpret and reinterpret the works
endlessly and sometimes excessively. A good book can
form good character for generation after generation.

Books teach people their language.
They also teach that few problems can be solved by
violence and that problems are not solely the preserve
of the poor and unfortunate. Real life is in books, and
the more artificial virtual reality becomes, the more we
need books.

For readers who need Iraq reality
with a gentle touch, there is no better selection than
Rory Stewart`s

The Prince of the Marshes
. Stewart served as
British governor of Maysan Province in Iraq as part of
coalition rule during 2003-04. Stewart gives no opinions
or exhortations. He merely describes the experience.
Readers, no matter how propagandized they might be by
Bush/Cheney and Fox "News," will be unable to avoid the
conclusion that the entire enterprise was madcap from
the beginning. Even Americans who cannot find Iraq on a
map will be struck with wonder that the finest
representatives of the old empire and the new were
vastly more ignorant than

Sumerian princes
in 2000 B.C.



Paul Craig Roberts

] was Assistant
Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration.
He is the author of

Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider`s Account of
Policymaking in Washington
and the Soviet Economy

Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy
and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of

The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and
Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name
of Justice
. Click

for Peter
Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts
about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.