Breaking the Chains of Mediocrity by Carol Jackson Robinson (Review)

Robinson

 

When sitting down to write, I began jotting “this book is wonderful”. Those words are not enough.

For with this short first volume of an ongoing collected works, we are indebted to Arouca Press for restoring to public awareness a little-known Twentieth Century Catholic essayist of the highest rank. Honestly, this is someone who, it seems to me, is worthy to be considered with the likes of Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton and L. Brent Bozell of Triumph magazine.

And yet after savouring those giants for long years, I had never heard of Carol Jackson Robinson until Arouca alerted me to her last year!

Now, this is but the initial slim instalment of her works. And my perhaps startling accolade is borne out all the more by reading later essays in the series as she matures, grows and develops. Still, this serves as a very inexpensive taster (6.99 American dollars) of why I dare to place her with the likes of Belloc. (Belloc, who I love with all my heart …)

For like those living flames of Catholic tradition, Carol Jackson Robinson combines traits that are not normally observed together.

For, one the one hand, hers is a bold, fiery spirit, united, though, with an evidently rich contemplative life.

(Indeed, this is so evident that one might be forgiven for wondering, at first, if Robinson were a religious, what with her call to disengagement from the world and the Prince of this World.)

But no! She was a layperson and the 1940s essays in this small initial volume appear to have been written whilst living in the Belly of the Beast: New York City.

Moreover, like the aforementioned giants, she had an erudite, brilliant mind and razor-sharp observation of the cancerous, mercantilist culture that is murdering our souls.

(For those who fondly imagine the pre-60s era of Catholicism a “golden age”, it may be sobering to hear how often Catholics had already succumbed to dry, lifeless, mechanical routine – too easily led on by a dry, lifeless, mechanical civilisation oriented to Mammon and getting ahead in the rat race.)

To all this, Robinson offers solutions, not simply critiques. Some will find a few of her remedies – clearly indebted to Chesterbellocian Distributism – unrealistic. Her response to such detractors would be that they are complacent, too easily satisfied with mediocrity.

What can I say? Whilst not everything Robinson said in the 1940s is practical and viable now, it is possible to cultivate the non-complacent spirit she radiates, a spirit that is, moreover, anything but dreamy “pie in the sky”, but rather earthy, gritty and very, very human …

I am sure I will have more to say of Robinson as Arouca continues to republish her work. Right now, there is just one tentative, unfinished thought I have to offer.

We live in dark times, dark times for the Church and for the West and darker it appears to me than the Mammon-obsessed society Robinson suffered in mid-Twentieth Century New York City.

We are thus in need of life. Now, we do see seeds of life in the Church, a re-orientation to what is beautiful, traditional and orthodox.

But even in Catholic traditionalism, we still too often find a subtly mechanical spirit, along with a willingness to compromise with a vicious corporate culture, even placing faith in politicians who actively promote that culture.

In Arouca Press republishing Jackson, I see a hopeful antidote to all this – a spirit in which nothing is complacent and everything is on fire.

And a fire, I should add, that is not burning, scalding, destructive, but warming, vivifying and, it honestly seems to me, tinged (and perhaps – who can say? – more than tinged) with holiness.

I don’t say these words lightly.

And I urge readers to buy this very inexpensive book. You will receive something great. You will also support something  great: Arouca Press, a small new traditional Catholic publisher, getting its feet off the ground ….

***

To buy this book you can either go to it here at Arouca Press or go to the Beast itself. (And if I seem complacent myself in advocating the Beast, I can only say I know that small Catholic publishing could not be seen, could not survive without it. Such is the painful dilemma of our times.)

 

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Video from Roger Buck

A video about what happens when you mix Chesterton, Belloc, Charles de Gaulle, GAFA, Ireland, France with Margaret Thatcher’s devastation of Britain, the Jam and “A Town Called Malice” …

 

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