As readers of this blog know, I was recently amazed to find myself talking on the radio for 20 minutes about my new book “Moral Fire” in what turned out to be a completely unhurried exchange with ample time for thought. That was on Boston’s WGBH, thanks to Brian Bell.
Now, thanks to Chris Johnson, Houston public radio has broadcast an even longer, even more expansive interview – 50 minutes of me waxing nostalgic about public discourse and institutional achievement during the late Gilded Age.
I frankly confess that I adore this interview, especially the last 10 minutes beginning at 41:22, where I’m asked what it all means for TODAY. I found myself saying that moral passion has in our new century been “co-opted.” I talk about the riddle that the visionaries of late Victorian times seem no longer replicable. I talk about how a bygone world can inspire and instruct. I talk about the shrinking cultural vocabulary of a shrinking readership for books. And I quote the favorite sentences from my book, which read:
“If the Met’s screaming Wagnerites standing on chairs in the 1890s are in fact unthinkable today, it is partly because we mistrust high feeling. Our children avidly specialize in vicarious forms of electronic interpersonal diversion. Our laptops and televisions ensnare us in a surrogate world that shuns all but facile passions; only Jon Stewart and Bill Maher share moments of moral outrage disguised as comedy.”
For the most recent review of “Moral Fire, in The Wall Street Journal, click here.
For the correct URL for the Boston Globe review (vs. the one I posted), click here.
For a “political” speech transcending politics and attaining a gravitas rare in what passes for public discourse today, click here.