A VISIT TO VANITY FAIR: Moral Essays on the Present Age

Alan Jacobs, Author . Brazos $18.99 (176p) ISBN 978-1-58743-014-5

This absorbing collection of essays from Jacobs, an English professor at Wheaton College, invites readers on a leisurely mental walk across campus, a walk that quickens the powers of observation and suggests anew the joys of critical thinking. Jacobs combines a confident Christian worldview with personal humility, grace and a wry sense of humor. Many of his reflections stem from observations of everyday life: the selective nature of a children's Bible, the concept of friendship, the place of computerized text in the history of books. Other pieces deal more directly with current cultural issues, like violent nature-based television programs or the extremely popular Harry Potter books. A few are the fruit of more specialized study—the changing role of literary influence on American preaching, a visit to the life and work of a modern British poet, a self-deprecating look at "The Lives of Essayists." While some readers may not care for these more idiosyncratic selections, many more will find in them fuel for further study. In his introduction, Jacobs posits that the "moral essay" could be "the ideal vehicle for moral reflection in a postfoundationalist age; it can present or narrate or proclaim a compelling vision of the Tao without making the mistake of arguing for it." Jacobs's essays succeed in reflecting this unusual goal, painting coherent pictures in an often incoherent world. They are also, to borrow a phrase from his discussion of the Harry Potter books, "a great deal of fun." (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 08/13/2001
Release date: 08/01/2001
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!