National Review’s blog-like The Corner has had a number of posts on the concept of “conservative literature.” Jonah Goldberg raised the issue after being queried by a reader. Rick Brookhiser objected:
Stop this meme before it kills again. Best conservative movies, best conservative fiction, best conservative breakfast cereal–how about just the best?
Jonah followed up:
Rick – Lord knows I’m sympathetic with your position. I wasn’t looking for ideological conservatism or anything like that. Just sort of the classics of literature which appeal to the eternal verities and that sort of thing. One of the reasons I don’t have any definitive answers is that, like you, I’ve never really read fiction for its “conservative” insights, but rather for its insights, pure and simple. Still, don’t, say, Dostoyevsky or Tolstoy represent a kind of small-c conservatism worth mentioning? Don’t Heinlein or Walker Percy have views of human nature which gibe with the conservative spirit?
Readers and other Cornerites weighed in before Brookhiser again reiterated his feelings:
Jonah, we are men and women before we are conservatives, and that is what fiction is about. Now I can think of novels that address particular situations that are of special interest to conservatives–the passing of old orders, etc. But such discussions almost instantly deteriorate into endless wangles about minor aspects of great writers (what does Dostoyevsky think of democracy?), or blow-the-man-down assertions that self-reliance or realism or [insert favorite virtue] are the property of conservatives.
So what say you gentle reader? Are their books that are conservative int eh sense Jonah is talking about? Authors like Waugh, Elliot, Chesterton, Tolkien, and C.S. Lewis may come to mind but how much of that is tied into their religious faith as opposed to conservatism? I would be interested in hearing others opinions. I will offer my take later tonight or tomorrow (when I have more time).