Category Archives: Reviews

Hate & Perversion in the Catcher in the Rye

It's "only three-quarters of a great novel"

I read “The Catcher in the Rye” when I was 18, and was disturbed by it. This review by Spencer J. Quinn of J.D. Salinger’s famous novel goes some way in enabling me to verbalise what exactly it was that disturbed me.


Literature can shape the way we look at the world — even without our knowing it, or being beware of the specific literature in question. A Bible verse shared during a church service or a few lines of poetry offered in a classroom can have this effect. With novels, well-drawn characters can stick with us until we view life through their fictional eyes. I imagine Ernest Hemingway had this in mind when he claimed that “all modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.” There is a little of Huck Finn in all of us, in other words.

By the 1960s, however, Huck Finn had been largely replaced by Holden Caulfield in the American imagination. Despite what an original character Holden is and how deftly author J. D. Salinger developed him in the 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, that’s hardly a good thing.


Holden Caulfield is indeed a wonderful, unforgettable character. But then why is The Catcher in the Rye only three-quarters of a great novel? Why is it bad that Holden has replaced Huck as the character through which so many Americans see their world?


None of this would be to the detriment of the novel had Salinger not molded Holden as the poster boy for revenge-minded alienated youth. Holden is treated so sympathetically by Salinger, especially at the end, that the reader is constantly tempted to view life through Holden’s jaundiced eyes — as if it’s the world that’s at fault, not Holden. This is dangerous. Given the connection between The Catcher in the Rye and John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, and others like him, yes, this is dangerous. Huck Finn may have viewed himself as an outlaw for helping Jim escape slavery, but he never saw himself as a predator constantly at odds with most of humanity the way Holden Caulfield seems to be at times.

What further enables the psychopath-as-hero reading of The Catcher in the Rye is the fact that so little is nice in Holden’s world. So much of it is dingy, seedy, or vomity, and, boy, does Holden Caulfield love dwelling on that. Other than during his dreamy walk through the museum, Holden fixates on the ugly and the revolting in New York City, as if that’s all there is. And his penchant for exaggeration doesn’t help. A hotel lobby smells like “50 million dead cigars.” Walking down steps to the sidewalk, he nearly breaks his neck over “10 million garbage pails.”

Even worse, Salinger normalizes sexual perversion. In a hotel Holden finds “a few pimpy-looking guys, and a few whory-looking blondes.” Through the open windows of his hotel, he sees a man trying on women’s clothing and a drunken couple squirting alcohol at each other from their mouths. “The hotel was lousy with perverts,” he states.


Most tragically, when a man Holden admires touches him inappropriately and forces him to flee into the night, Holden wasn’t even terribly surprised. He admits that “perverty” things like that have happened to him “about twenty times” before. Rounding that down to the more accurate-sounding once or twice, we still have the normalcy of perversion. It’s as if most American boys in Salinger’s world are forced to deal with unwelcome come-ons from grown men.

Who wouldn’t want to shoot up a world like that?

With such a splendid character as Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye could have been a much greater contribution to Western literature. Salinger only needed to tone down the murder in Holden’s heart and the perversion in Holden’s world. Instead, however, he was happy to paint the world to be a darker place than it really is, and make it cool to hate your fellow man.

Meghan Markle and the aristocracy of victimhood

How Meghan became the Princess of Postmodernism.

Article by Brendan O’Neill, in which he reviews Tom Bower’s new book, Revenge: Meghan, Harry and the War Between the Windsors.


Isn’t it striking that the Trump administration was continually slammed by liberals for its promotion of ‘alternative facts’, whereas Meghan is loved by liberals despite also seeming to deal in ‘alternative facts’? The Trumpite Orwellian category of ‘alternative facts’ really means pushing ‘claims that do not conform to objective reality’, raged USA Today. ‘Traditionally known as false or misleading claims; also, lies’, it continued. Does that apply to the Duchess of Sussex, too? Are her claims about being an only child and getting married three days before she actually got married also ‘alternative facts’, false claims, misinformation?


This is not to say Meghan Markle is a liar. It is more complicated than that, and in a sense more sinister. She appears to be a product of the end of truth. She seems symbolic of a postmodern culture in which self-definition now takes precedence over objective reality. In which our narcissistic description of ourselves carries more weight than any anchored, measurable facts about ourselves. In which one can ‘identify’ as anything one chooses, however estranged your identification might be from material reality. A man can be a woman, despite having a penis, and Meghan Markle can be an only child, despite having siblings. That’s their truth, man.


Together Meghan and Harry have become globe-trotting moral reprimanders, with often unwittingly hilarious results. Meghan guest-edited Vogue, using it as a pulpit to preach about the evils of climate change. Yet she takes private jets the way the rest of us order Ubers, says Bower. Harry flew in a private jet to a Google camp in Sicily to speak about climate change. ‘His plane was just one of the 114 private jets, as well as a fleet of super yachts, that had ferried billionaires and celebrities to the festival.’ Later, at a press conference in Amsterdam to promote an eco-travel campaign (!), Harry is outraged when a journalist asks him about his private jet-setting. Ninety-nine per cent of my flights are commercial, he says. Actually, at least 60 per cent of your flights are private, he is informed. ‘No one is perfect’, he replies. A few days later the pair flew by private jet to attend the wedding of a close friend who was getting hitched to the son of an oil billionaire.


We may never know all the facts about some of these stories. But we should bear in mind a point Bower makes well – that in the woke ‘religion’ of Hollywood celebrities, ‘the concept of “universal truth” [is] false’. Indeed, Meghan herself has said that ‘life is about storytelling, about the stories we tell ourselves, the stories we’re told, what we buy into’. We all have the right to ‘create our own truth about the world’, she says. Behold the Princess of Postmodernism, for whom truth is whatever she says it is. I am the Truth – the final rallying cry of the narcissistic new aristocracy.

The Covid Plot Against Humanity

A new book by Dr. Naomi Wolf, review by Lew Rockwell


The great historian and literature scholar Dr. Naomi Wolf has written the most important book of our times. She really nails it. After you read The Bodies of Others: The New Authoritarians, Covid-19 and the War Against the Human, you will understand the truly diabolical conspiracy that threatens the world with destruction.


The argument Dr. Wolf makes for this far-reaching conclusion is simple and devastating. Human culture depends on contact between people. But our high and mighty masters want to keep us apart through lockdowns, government control of all our activities, and injecting harmful substances into us. “In these two years, the COVID-19 pandemic, which began unfolding with unprecedented global ‘lockdown’ in March 2020, has fundamentally remade human relations, capitalism, and culture in the West. No matter that in the past we had lived through far graver medical crises without passing thought of stopping all congregation, suspending the production of all culture, or compelling all healthy people to cover their faces, close their businesses and keep apart—-this time, the elites used the ‘crisis’ to shut down Western norms of liberty, the human-centered world, and civilization itself.


Dr. Wolf issues a dire warning that she supports with irrefutable evidence. “The end goal is something much darker than a dark-enough world in which everyone is coercively vaccinated, whether they are at risk or not, whether they have immunity or not, a world in which ‘boosters’ for seven billion people annually are guaranteed forever. The end-goal, rather, is to ensure that our pre-March 2020 world disappears forever, irretrievable. To be replaced with a world in which all human endeavor is behind a digital paywall, and in which all of us ask the permission of technology to gain access to the physical world, access to culture and access to other human beings. . .The real goal has nothing to do with public health. The real goal is to destroy Western and human culture, and to replace it with a techno-fascistic culture—-a culture in which we have forgotten what human beings can do. The crime that was perpetrated during the pandemic years of 2020-22 was perhaps the greatest ever committed against humanity. And it is being perpetrated still.”

Rest of it here.

The Science of Evil

Michael Rectenwald's Review of "Political Ponerology"

“Political Ponerology” is the title of a book on the science of evil, written by Polish author Andrew M. Łobaczewski and first published in 1984 (!). US academic Michael Rectenwald has read it and written a review on He starts by saying:

This strange and provocative book argues that totalitarianism is the result of the extension of psychopathology from a group of psychopaths to the entire body politic, including its political and economic systems. 

He goes on to say:

Łobaczewski made the bold claim that he’d uncovered “the general laws of the origin of evil.” If true, the book was on par with Newton’s Principia in the physical sciences, while being of greater practical importance. And he approached this domain from the disciplinary perspective of psychology. Such an “individualist” methodology had been dismissed as mere “psychologism” in my own and many other fields of the humanities and social sciences. Łobaczewski’s insistence to focus on individual psychological disorders to understand the unfolding of “macrosocial evil” seemed mistaken to me initially, but this approach accords well with Joseph Schumpeter’s methodological individualism, which became a hallmark of the Austrian school. My assumption had always been that one needed to study political ideology and economics and that political ideology and economic theory explained nearly everything one needed to know about how and why totalitarian evil comes about.

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From the conclusion of “The Relation Between Religion and Culture”

Great religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest

This is part 10, the last part, of my notes on the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Dawson. (In brackets the page numbers of each quote from TRBRAC, unless another book mentioned. “PwG” refers to my own thoughts.)     

Dawson: “The great civilizations of the world do not produce the great religions as a kind of cultural by-product; in a very real sense the great religions are the foundations on which the great civilizations rest. A society which has lost its religion becomes sooner or later a society which has lost its culture.” (271, my emphasis) (Progress and Religion, 1937)

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On Christianity and International Order

Religion is the only power that can meet the forces of destruction on equal terms

This is part 9 of my notes on the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Dawson. (In brackets the page numbers of each quote from TRBRAC, unless another book mentioned. “PwG” refers to my own thoughts.)     

Dawson proposes not a League of Nations but a Confederation, a league of federations, that would unite the nations of the world. (p. 245)

Dawson states that such a federation would work only if it were based on some spiritual force, and he believes that we should look to Christianity to supply this spiritual force. Just as Christianity, in the past, was the basis of unity in Europe, so too, can it bring about world unity. (p. 245)

(PwG:) This is of course the total counter-vision to secular world government.

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On the return to Christian unity and the predicament Christianity is in now

It has been replaced by "State-inspired public opinion and by the mass organisation of society on a purely secular basis"

This is part 8 of my notes on the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Dawson. (In brackets the page numbers of each quote from TRBRAC, unless another book mentioned. “PwG” refers to my own thoughts.)     

Dawson: “Either Europe must abandon the Christian tradition and with it the faith in progress and humanity, or it must return consciously to the religious foundation on which these ideas were based.” (p. 225)

Dawson: “true foundation of European unity is to be found not in political or economic agreements, but in the restoration of the spiritual tradition on which that unity was originally based.” (p. 227, my emphasis)

Totalitarianism and the totalitarian state [are] a force that impedes the restauration of the Christian tradition in Western Culture. (p. 227)     

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On natural science

Does it inevitably lead to secularization?

This is part 7 of my notes on the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Dawson. (In brackets the page numbers of each quote from TRBRAC, unless another book mentioned. “PwG” refers to my own thoughts.)     

Since the time of the Renaissance, natural science . . . was based on a mechanistic view of nature that destroyed the old spiritual unity of medieval Europe, and it failed to establish a real basis for unity in European culture. (p. 215)  

Dawson: “Thus as I have suggested, the progress of Western civilisation by science and power seems to lead to a state of total secularization in which both religion and freedom simultaneously disappear.” (p. 218)

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On the industrial revolution

It was built on the foundation of Christian revivals

This is part 6 of my notes on the thoughts and ideas of Christopher Dawson. (In brackets the page numbers of each quote from TRBRAC, unless another book mentioned. “PwG” refers to my own thoughts.)     

[I]n England, they attempted to steer a middle course between traditional Christianity and the new ideas, and simultaneously devoted themselves to practical utilitarian activity. They put the new science into practical use, and at the same time developed a new social type, the hard-working, conscientious, abstemious man of business, who considered his work a kind of religious vocation. The “narrow and intense spirit of Puritanism,” remarks Dawson, “permeated the whole movement, and gave English middle-class society the moral force to carry out the vast material labour of the Industrial Revolution.” (p. 212)

(PwG:) Vishal Mangalwadi, in his magnificent book “The Book That Made Your World – How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization”, published 2011, argues that, without the Christian revivals in the UK and the American colonies (later the US), these regions would have been much more strongly influenced by the French Revolution than they were. That is why the Industrial Revolution started in Britain and the US, and not in continental Europe.