Strauss’s pedagogical method was famous for its simplicity and directness. A student would be asked to read a passage from the work being discussed; Strauss would make a comment or two, noting contradictions or discrepancies with earlier passages; a student might then raise a question, which would lead Strauss to digress, taking it to a much higher level and illustrating with with often earthy examples. (He was particularly fond of examples from a newspaper advice column of the time, “Dear Abby.”) Then on to the next passage.
That is from Mark Lilla’s new book The Shipwrecked Mind: On Political Reaction. There is also this bit from the book:
Michel Houellebecq is not angry. He does not have a program, and he is not shaking his fist at the nation’s traitors…He appears genuinely to believe that France has, regrettably and irretrievably, lost its sense of self, but not because of feminism or immigration or the European Union or globalization. Those are just symptoms of a crisis that was set off two centuries ago when Europeans made a wager on history: that the more they extended human freedom, the happier they would be. For him, that wager has been lost. And so the continent is adrift and susceptible to a much older temptation, to submit to those claiming to speak for God. Who remains as remote and as silent as ever.
I enjoy such books. But in earlier times I preferred Ann Landers to Dear Abby.