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Remembering D.G. Myers

Last Friday, the world of literary criticism and the COMMENTARY community lost a major voice when D.G. Myers passed away after a long and courageous battle against cancer. David taught English literature for more than two decades at Texas A&M and then later at the Ohio State University. He was the author of The Elephants Teach, a definitive history of creative writing as well as of A Commonplace Blog, where he shared his thoughts about books, politics, and culture. He also contributed to COMMENTARY from 1989 to 2012. His reviews, both in the print magazine and in his Literary Commentary blog that he wrote from 2011 to 2012, were consistently insightful and provided readers with a voice of sanity and support for the best in the Western tradition against those seeking to dumb down our culture.

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Last Friday, the world of literary criticism and the COMMENTARY community lost a major voice when D.G. Myers passed away after a long and courageous battle against cancer. David taught English literature for more than two decades at Texas A&M and then later at the Ohio State University. He was the author of The Elephants Teach, a definitive history of creative writing as well as of A Commonplace Blog, where he shared his thoughts about books, politics, and culture. He also contributed to COMMENTARY from 1989 to 2012. His reviews, both in the print magazine and in his Literary Commentary blog that he wrote from 2011 to 2012, were consistently insightful and provided readers with a voice of sanity and support for the best in the Western tradition against those seeking to dumb down our culture.

David left behind his wife Naomi and children Dov, Saul, Isaac, and Miriam as well as many colleagues and friends who will always think of his humor and brilliant insights on a host of topics with affection. Below are links to Literary Commentary and a few of his review essays that appeared in the magazine. May his memory be for a blessing.

Real Presences by George Steiner, February 1990

The Best American Poetry, January 1992

The Never-Ending Journey (books on Lionel Trilling, Irving Howe, Whittaker Chambers and anti-Communism), October 2009

The November Criminals, June 2010

Let Franzen Ring, December 2010

Don’t Eat That Lotus, February 2011

The Art of Being First, November 2011

Bearing Witness, December 2011

A Fitting Finale, November 2012

Literary Commentary, 2011-2012

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Werner J. Dannhauser, 1929-2014

Werner J. Dannhauser, who worked for COMMENTARY as an editor fifty years ago before moving into academia as a celebrated teacher of political philosophy, was an American original—and of a type of which there are, sadly, fewer and fewer as the years pass. He was a deeply serious intellectual—and a bit of a reprobate. He was a highly responsible bourgeois who tragically found himself a widower at a very young age with two very young children—and a party animal who liked to gamble and drink. (He once prevailed upon his legendary teacher, Leo Strauss, for a loan when he got himself in over his head in a professional poker game and needed some scratch to keep his legs from getting broken out from under him.) He had the beard of a 19th Century Swedenborgian clergyman—and told a Jewish joke like nobody’s business. He taught moral and political philosophy with great gravity—and got into hot water for talking dirty in a Cornell classroom. He was a genuinely delightful man and, when he could free himself from the writer’s block that oddly afflicts so many Straussians, a prose stylist of true grace and wit.

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Werner J. Dannhauser, who worked for COMMENTARY as an editor fifty years ago before moving into academia as a celebrated teacher of political philosophy, was an American original—and of a type of which there are, sadly, fewer and fewer as the years pass. He was a deeply serious intellectual—and a bit of a reprobate. He was a highly responsible bourgeois who tragically found himself a widower at a very young age with two very young children—and a party animal who liked to gamble and drink. (He once prevailed upon his legendary teacher, Leo Strauss, for a loan when he got himself in over his head in a professional poker game and needed some scratch to keep his legs from getting broken out from under him.) He had the beard of a 19th Century Swedenborgian clergyman—and told a Jewish joke like nobody’s business. He taught moral and political philosophy with great gravity—and got into hot water for talking dirty in a Cornell classroom. He was a genuinely delightful man and, when he could free himself from the writer’s block that oddly afflicts so many Straussians, a prose stylist of true grace and wit.

Here he is, in 1975, in an article called “On Teaching Politics Today” which is so politically incorrect in its discussion of, among other things, his students’s “bosoms” that no one, not even he, would write it now:

Like everybody else around me I learned Shaw’s not-so-bon mot early: Those who can, do, those who can’t, teach. I wanted to be the third baseman for the Cleveland Indians when I grew up, or a jazz trumpeter, or a movie star, but never a teacher. I drifted into teaching just as I drifted into everything else, both wonderful and dreadful, in my life. Graduate students need money—a student, according to Balzac, is somebody who can afford only luxuries—so I began to do a little teaching on the side. It became more than a sideline because it was a stage of sorts and I was not too bad as an actor on it. To watch a classroom full of people taking down what I said was heady, especially when there were admiring girls among them. So I kept teaching.

Then came a time when I began to realize I had grown too old to be a third baseman and I suddenly got the dreadful feeling that real life was somewhere else. So I left teaching and looked for real life as a social worker, a truck dispatcher, an editor, a researcher for a labor union. In the ivory tower the university struck me as, well, an ivory tower; but out of it, it seemed to be the place where the action was. In I went and out I went, and now I’m back in, having learned, as Milton Friedman puts it, that there is no such thing as a free lunch. One pays a price for being a teacher. One’s wit becomes donnish; one’s arguments pedantic; one grows slower without growing calmer. Continued association with those younger than oneself may hasten the coming of senility. Faculty parties are immeasurably more boring than Village parties or family parties. But real life is not out there either. It’s inside somewhere, hard to find, and teachers have a better chance of finding it than most. One has to learn to trust oneself, to trust the great stupidity one is (Nietzsche). I have not learned much about who I am, but I have learned I am a teacher.

He was indeed. He had a bad ticker but managed to live decades longer than, I think, he expected to—and kept his friends and students and family entertained and enlightened throughout. Werner died over the weekend at the age of 84. May his daughters Fanya and Anna and their children be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. UPDATE: Bill Kristol’s tribute to Werner is here.

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“The New War on Israel”–Our E-Book

Just out from COMMENTARY is our first topical e-book, The New War on Israel—and How to Fight Back. Over the past year especially, efforts to delegitimate the Jewish state have taken on a new urgency and force, much of it from liberals and leftists who are using their own Jewishness as a weapon. We have assembled several of our best articles and blog posts in a coherent whole to expose the hollowness and injustice of the arguments and the highly problematic nature of the way in which they are conducted. The ebook features pieces by me, Joshua Muravchik, Jonathan Tobin, Rick Richman, Ben Cohen, Adam Kredo, and others. It is essential reading. You can purchase it here.

Just out from COMMENTARY is our first topical e-book, The New War on Israel—and How to Fight Back. Over the past year especially, efforts to delegitimate the Jewish state have taken on a new urgency and force, much of it from liberals and leftists who are using their own Jewishness as a weapon. We have assembled several of our best articles and blog posts in a coherent whole to expose the hollowness and injustice of the arguments and the highly problematic nature of the way in which they are conducted. The ebook features pieces by me, Joshua Muravchik, Jonathan Tobin, Rick Richman, Ben Cohen, Adam Kredo, and others. It is essential reading. You can purchase it here.

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Bret Stephens in COMMENTARY

Congratulations go today to our friend and colleague Bret Stephens for winning the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns in the Wall Street Journal. The Pulitzer’s citation speaks of Bret’s “incisive columns on American foreign policy and domestic politics, often enlivened by a contrarian twist.” Bret’s work is essential reading for anyone cares about the issues of the day as well as composed in a style that highlights his erudition and the cogency of his worldview.

Though the Pulitzers have often blundered in the past and given their prize to undeserving writers, in this case, they could not have found a more worthy recipient. We’re proud to be associated with him and congratulate the Pulitzers for adding his name to the roster of their winners.

We at COMMENTARY take a special pride in Bret’s achievement because he began his career at COMMENTARY and continues to be one of our most valued contributors.

In tribute to his work, here is a selection of some of Bret’s writing in COMMENTARY over the last several years. These articles, like his award-winning columns in the Journal, speak to the breadth of his expertise and to the brilliance of his thinking.

January 2013: What is the Future of Conservatism? A Symposium.

October 2012: The Coming Global Disorder

June 2012: Born on the Fourth of June

November 2011 Optimistic or Pessimistic About America?

July 2010: Iran Cannot Be Contained

March 2009: The Syrian Temptation — and Why Obama Must Resist It

September 2008: How to Manage Savagery

November 2007 The Israel Lobby by Walt and Mearsheimer

September 2007: Jews and Power by Ruth Wisse

February 2007: Realists to the Rescue?

November 2006: Shopping for Bombs

Congratulations go today to our friend and colleague Bret Stephens for winning the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns in the Wall Street Journal. The Pulitzer’s citation speaks of Bret’s “incisive columns on American foreign policy and domestic politics, often enlivened by a contrarian twist.” Bret’s work is essential reading for anyone cares about the issues of the day as well as composed in a style that highlights his erudition and the cogency of his worldview.

Though the Pulitzers have often blundered in the past and given their prize to undeserving writers, in this case, they could not have found a more worthy recipient. We’re proud to be associated with him and congratulate the Pulitzers for adding his name to the roster of their winners.

We at COMMENTARY take a special pride in Bret’s achievement because he began his career at COMMENTARY and continues to be one of our most valued contributors.

In tribute to his work, here is a selection of some of Bret’s writing in COMMENTARY over the last several years. These articles, like his award-winning columns in the Journal, speak to the breadth of his expertise and to the brilliance of his thinking.

January 2013: What is the Future of Conservatism? A Symposium.

October 2012: The Coming Global Disorder

June 2012: Born on the Fourth of June

November 2011 Optimistic or Pessimistic About America?

July 2010: Iran Cannot Be Contained

March 2009: The Syrian Temptation — and Why Obama Must Resist It

September 2008: How to Manage Savagery

November 2007 The Israel Lobby by Walt and Mearsheimer

September 2007: Jews and Power by Ruth Wisse

February 2007: Realists to the Rescue?

November 2006: Shopping for Bombs

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Rabbi Meir Soloveichik in COMMENTARY

This afternoon sometime after 2 p.m., Rabbi Meir Soloveichik will give the invocation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Rabbi Soloveichik, the director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, is well known to readers of COMMENTARY for his brilliant articles on Jewish thought and history.

Those who hear his words this afternoon would do well to read these pieces to get a taste of the wisdom and insight that has earned him a reputation as one of the best thinkers in the Jewish world today:

How Not to Become a Jew, January 2006

Of (Religious) Fences and Neighbors, March 2007

Of Priests, Rabbis and Wives, October 2007

Why Beards, February 2008

Mysteries of the Menorah, March 2008

Blessed Unions, March 2012

This afternoon sometime after 2 p.m., Rabbi Meir Soloveichik will give the invocation at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Rabbi Soloveichik, the director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University, is well known to readers of COMMENTARY for his brilliant articles on Jewish thought and history.

Those who hear his words this afternoon would do well to read these pieces to get a taste of the wisdom and insight that has earned him a reputation as one of the best thinkers in the Jewish world today:

How Not to Become a Jew, January 2006

Of (Religious) Fences and Neighbors, March 2007

Of Priests, Rabbis and Wives, October 2007

Why Beards, February 2008

Mysteries of the Menorah, March 2008

Blessed Unions, March 2012

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