The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk (1953)
Choice quote: "Hawthorne's chief accomplishment: impressing the idea of sin upon a nation which would like to forget it."
My book still has that smell that all the books from that little bookstore in Niles, Michigan, had. I bought it for $10, back in 1989, when I was a law student. I had little money and even less time at that moment of life, but for some reason, I really wanted this book. It blew me away. I remember reading it in a cubicle at the Notre Dame Law School library and two friends asking me what I was reading. I showed them, then rambled excitedly for about it for a minute or so. They looked at me like I were nuts, but they smiled, trying to be polite, then left me to my book. It was my first indication that I had become something of a freak, but I didn't care. Kirk's book became my favorite kind of book: a book about books. I'm not even sure I consider myself a conservative anymore. I rather identify with the libertarians of the Nockian stripe: beautiful libertarians, not the nasty individualist Randian types. Kirk's was a beautiful mind, so it's not surprising that he loved Nock's masterpiece Memoirs of a Superfluous Man. Did Kirk square his conservatism with libertarian economic ideas? I doubt it, but I don't really care. The State was always the elephant whore in Kirk’s room, and he never really seemed to know what to make of it. It's a shortcoming, but one that can be forgiven: hurriedly, anxiously. For no man should sit in judgment on the likes of Kirk.