The Imaginative Conservative‘s co-founder and editor-at-large, Bradley J. Birzer, has received another award for his outstanding, new biography of seminal conservative thinker, Russell Kirk. Following on the heels of The Imaginative Conservative‘s own 2015 Book of the Year Award, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) has announced that Dr. Birzer has won the 2016 Henry and Anne Paolucci Book Award for Russell Kirk: American Conservative. According to ISI, “a distinguished panel of judges chose this masterful biography from among five impressive finalists. The Paolucci Book Award is an annual honor recognizing the best book that advances conservative principles. The award is named in memory of Henry and Anne Paolucci, distinguished scholars, teachers, and writers who exemplified the ideal of the public intellectual.”
As Robert Stacey writes in his review of Dr. Birzer’s book in The Imaginative Conservative:
“Dr. Birzer’s biography of Kirk is in fact humane, as well as intimate, balanced, and complete. Friends will come to know Kirk better having read this book, and honest foes will have to admit Kirk was about as consistent in his principles as a man can be…. Bradley J. Birzer’s definitive biography is clearly a victory for old-school conservatism and the imagination. Old friends of Kirk and new ones alike will benefit from this work, and hopefully, even optimistically, will do so for generations to come.”
Dr. Birzer’s book is the first full-length biography of the man who might be called the “godfather” of modern conservative thought. Russell Kirk brought his love for the wisdom of the Ancients, for the teachings of Christianity, for the beauty of the Great Books, and for the prudence of the Western political tradition to his thinking about nature of conservatism and the prospects for the America that he loved.
Here are excerpts from Dr. Birzer’s book:
“Kirk’s writings—personal and professional—touched on a multitude of subjects: philosophy, poetry, culture, history, religion, foreign policy, architecture, manners, politics, and education, to name just a few. In all of them, Kirk examined what was necessary to conserve, what was necessary to change, and, with more difficulty and considerable nuance, what things should be both conserved and changed at the same time. Despite his faith in the theological virtue of hope, he often despaired for the present and near future of Western and American civilization. On through the creation of a republic of letters, a leavening of culture, politics, education, and literature, and personal as well as communitarian reform could Americans be worthy of citizenship in what Cicero called the Cosmopolis and what At. Augustine titled the City of God, a republic that transcended time and sojourned through and across it.”
“Rarely have works in the past sixty years explored the rise of conservatism in literature and culture. For Kirk, though, there can be no real separation of any of these realms. Indeed, one of his most important contributions was to reclaim the whole, the universal principles that hold one person and one culture to another at any one moment of time and across time.”
“Kirk presented a Christian sanctification of the pagan myth of Perseus and his nemesis the Gorgon, Medusa. Indeed, this myth holds the entire book together. ‘A man if he venerates the ashes of his fathers and the temples of his gods, will seek out the terror and strike with all the strength that is in him, as Perseus struck,’ Kirk wrote, paraphrasing a famous lay by Thomas Babington Macaulay, the nineteenth-century British historian and poet. America, in Kirk’s understanding, serves as the modern Perseus, striking against the secularization and ideologization of the postwar world. Like Perseus, America could turn away from its task—as the leading power of the Western world—at any moment. And like Perseus, America would need to contend with the problems of power, self, and enemy.”
The Wall Street Journal hails Dr. Birzer’s Russell Kirk as “a beautifully written and deeply insightful biography”; The Washington Times says that “this should be required reading for conservatives who wish to rediscover their roots, and perhaps refurnish our politics with the permanent things”; “By presenting this thorough portrait of an extraordinary man,” First Things magazine says, “Birzer allows us to commune with Kirk. That is an act of authentic piety.”
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