In some 21 essays, Roger Kimball — author of seminal books like Tenured Radicals and The Long March, editor of theThe New Criterion, and publisher of Encounter Books — lays out a general indictment of what we might loosely call “modernism” in the West. By that term, Kimball means the rejection of over two millennia of classical values that accelerated following the horrors of World War I, and which came to full fruition in Europe and the United States after the catastrophe of World War II, before crystallizing in the 1960s amid the social upheavals sparked by the Vietnam War.
To understand what had been lost in the 20th century West, a critic would have to be a literary scholar. He should be intimately familiar with art and attuned to popular culture. He would also have to be knowledgeable about classical music and the reactions to it, conversant with European tastes, and acquainted with subjects as diverse as economics, political science, and architecture. Few observers other than Kimball are, so his multifaceted and deeply learned lamentation deserves a wide readership — not just for his accurate diagnoses, but also for the singularly learned manner in which he offers antidotes and prognoses.