I finished Out of the Ashes the other day. Regular readers here know I am huge fan of Anthony Esolen. Perhaps my coolness to the current effort has more to do with what I need rather than what Mr. Esolen has to offer.
As always he writes very well. His writing is always a delight to read. However, at times (in Out of the Ashes) he seemed to have so much to say that he didn't know how to say it briefly, so uses examples that don't clearly cover the problem.
And this is another problem. The book is subtitled "Rebuilding American Culture", but Mr. Esolen spends so much time defining the problems, he neglects how to rebuild, other than 'don't continue the problem.'
Perhaps this was it for me. I read for enjoyment and to learn; the enjoyment was there, but in this case, I thoroughly know the problems already. I have been struggling in my own way to rebuild culture at least in my family and among my friends. I wanted a different perspective.
However, I DO recommend the book. This is not meant to be a negative review, just that my personal expectations were not met - I am sure Mr. Esolen did not write the book to satisfy me. But take a look, for example:
The progressives of old had a clear idea of what they thought would bring about their earthly paradise: the dictatorship of the proletariat, the emancipation of women, the elimination of monarchy and its replacement with democracy, universal education, and so on. None of their nostrums has delivered on its promise, and some have had the perverse effect of rotting away the foundation upon which their suppositions of beneficence were based. So it is that democratic machinery without the soul of democracy has produced a far more intrusive and liberty-crushing state than anything that the proudest monarch could have imagined-or wished, since such a constant political preoccupation would have left no time for boar hunting or chasing women. So it is that universal schooling has not brought Milton to the millions, but rather has taken Milton away from the brightest and replaced him with "young adult" junk. So it is that women have been emancipated from the freedom of the home and chained to salaried work and lives of relative loneliness.
Oremus pro invicem!