Weekly Standard, First Things

SHAMING THE DEVIL: Essays in Truthtelling

Alan Jacobs, Author . Eerdmans $20 (231p) ISBN 978-0-8028-4894-9

Wheaton College professor Jacobs once again displays his considerable gifts in this collection of essays originally published in the Weekly Standard, First Things and the Christian review Books & Culture . As in his earlier collection, A Visit to Vanity Fair , Jacobs's range of interests and the breadth of his reading is extraordinary, along with the depth of his Christian humanism. His recurring theme here is the promises and limits of the modern era, as seen through some of its most celebrated figures: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Albert Camus, W. H. Auden, Iris Murdoch and Wole Soyinka. Even an essay on Sappho's poetry becomes a meditation on modern erotic politics, in dialogue with the Song of Solomon. A final section on Jacobs's sometimes comical attempts to install the Linux operating system on his own computer explores information technology, that quintessentially modern achievement. The tone here is somewhat more serious than in Vanity Fair , but never inaccessible, not least because Jacobs never takes himself too seriously. Notwithstanding the relatively conservative venues where Jacobs publishes, his writing is also utterly free of ideological cant, and his reading even of those with whom he disagrees is marked by generosity, humor and humility. Every writer longs for readers of Jacobs's integrity and creativity; discerning readers will revel in the chance to let Jacobs read aloud, as it were, over their own shoulder. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/16/2004
Release date: 08/01/2004
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