Another list of 50 that I've been keeping tabs on is the Columbia Spectator's 50 States of Literature. After a summer break they recently resumed, offering up their selection for Massachusetts, the Bay State, my home state. Whatever one can say about the selection of Mystic River, it must begin with "eff" and end with "that." A silly choice. No historical perspective. Freaking Alabama gets To Kill a Mockingbird, a certified American classic, and Massachusetts, the birthplace of America, gets genre fiction. What, is The Scarlett Letter too puritanical? Moby-Dick too boring? The Human Stain too brilliant? The Wapshot Chronicle too WASPy? Jerkoffs.
The Social Contract (1762) is a masterpiece of one of the most fascinating of writers.
The thought of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was world-breaking and world-making. His effect on his own age was seismic, and the tremors have never subsided.
To proclaim him the intellectual founder of the modern left is actually to understate his accomplishments.
There was no other thinker in whom so many modern impulses converged, only to emerge transformed, still more modern, more radical, more dangerous and enticing.
For all his vast influence on the 19th century, much in his thought was so farsighted that it came to be appreciated only in the late 20th.
Tuesday, September 30
Of lists good and less good
Way back in January the Globe and Mail began publishing a list of the 50 greatest books. Their latest is the 38th entry and it's a good one: