The Seven Deadly Virtues

[Amazon Link]

So the title of the book is The Seven Deadly Virtues and there are seventeen chapters. Apparently nobody told editor Jonathan V. Last that there would be math. And I don't know why Owen Wilson is on the cover.

Those quibbles aside, it's pretty good! Mr. Last persuaded 17 other conservative writers to each pen an essay on (in all but one case) a single virtue. Why so many? Well, first there are the classic virtues noticed by Plato (I'll put Mr. Last's assigned writer next to each):

  • Temperance [Andrew Stiles]
  • Prudence [Andrew Ferguson]
  • Courage [Michael Graham]
  • Justice [Rob Long]

Christian theology adds three more…

  • Faith [Larry Miller]
  • Hope [David Burge, aka Iowahawk]
  • Charity [Mollie Hemingway]

And to pad things out, Last's writers also opine on "everyday" virtues:

  • Chastity [Matt Labash]
  • Simplicity [James Lileks]
  • Thrift [Joe Queenan]
  • Honesty [Rita Koganzon]
  • Fellowship [Christine Rosen]
  • Forbearance [Sonny Bunch]
  • Integrity [Jonah Goldberg]
  • Curiosity [Christopher Caldwell]
  • Perseverence [Christopher Buckley]

If you're counting, that's 16: add in Mr. Last's introduction, and P.J. O'Rourke's overview of the first two batches, "The Seven Deadly Virtues and the New York Times".

Famous folk, all except… I had never heard of Rita Koganzon. Her back-of-the-book-bio shows why: she's a mere grad student (albeit at Harvard) and her publications are in serious journals I don't read.

I'm a little surprised that Christopher Buckley made the cut, due to his 2008 endorsement of Obama and his subsequent separation from his dad's magazine, National Review. (This also led to a wicked and delightful Iowahawk parody, so I'm also a bit surprised that Buckley agreed to appear in the same book as the Hawk.)

The essays range (in my subjective opinion) from superb to good. And the humor content varies from (usually) high to (a couple cases) undetectable. Some writers seem to stray from their topic. For example, Mr. Lileks on "Simplicity" takes off on his (well-known, if you know about Mr. Lileks at all) habit of picking up ephemera. (He ties it back up by the end of the essay.)

An adapted version of Jonah Goldberg's contribution can be read here.

Consumer note: my generous family gave me the hardcover for Christmas, but it's a tad pricey ($20.57 at Amazon as I type). I would recommend the Kindle version at $9.99.

The Equalizer

[4.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

So this is pretty much a by-the-numbers action flick. But it's got Denzel Washington as the hero, and that's enough to raise it up to four point zero stars right there.

Mr. Washington plays Robert McCall, living a quiet existence in a downscale Boston community (Chelsea/East Boston or somewhere in that area). He takes the Red Line to work at a big-box home improvement store. (Actually, according to IMDB, a defunct Lowe's in Haverhill.) He's affable enough, but essentially a loner.

He's got insomnia, which makes him a regular customer at a seedy all-night diner, where he drinks tea (made from a teabag he brings from home) and reads his dead wife's novels. This leads him to meet "Teri" (Chloë Grace Moretz), a young prostitute who has ambitions to leave her sordid life. (The guy playing Teri's pimp, David Meunier, previously played Johnny Crowder on Justified; pretty much the same sleazy character, except with a Russian accent instead of a Kentucky accent.)

Teri's ambitions are hindered by a brutal beating from Russian mobster/pimp. Which leads McCall to help out, first peaceably, then not so much. It turns out that McCall has (as Liam Neeson would put it) "a very particular set of skills", and he finds himself at war with the entire Russian mob. The Russian mob should have known better.