The Art of Being Human
Michael S. Rose (Angelico Press, $17.95, 146 pages)
Michael S. Rose’s The Art of Being Human: What ‘Old Books’ Can Tell Us (and Warn Us) About Living in the 21st Century examines 18 books and one (George Orwell) essay that serve as cautionary tales on science, transhumanism, and totalitarianism. The stories range from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragical History Doctor Faustus to Walker Percy’s The Thanatos Syndrome and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. All speak to themes of the link between human nature and human dignity, and the manipulation of human nature through politics and technology. Rose concludes his examination of The Wanting Seed by Anthony Burgess by noting that the “proper correctives” to modern threats to human dignity include “a restoration of reality, an assent to God, and an acknowledgement of Original Sin” – and that the best of science fiction (and other literature) can help us understand both the threats and correctives.