When I became a Christian, I learned a happy truth that I previously had not quite believed: Morality is a matter of fact, not opinion.
—Stephen L. Carter, “Why Rules Rule,”in the Sept. 3, 2001, issue of Christianity Today.
Chatterbox finished Stephen L. Carter’s novel,, last week while he was vacationing in Vermont. He couldn’t put it down! The characters were sharply drawn (especially the narrator, Talcott Garland, clearly a savage self-caricature). The chess motif was intriguing. The religious theme was rendered with a light touch. The milieu of the Washington- and Oak-Bluffs-dwelling African-American elite was evoked with great skill. The plot was gratifyingly complex and full of wonderful surprises. (The narrative clockwork winds down toward the end, but for intricately plotted thrillers that’s par for the course.) Emperor was elegantly written, too—amazingly so when you consider the author’s gassy style when he writes nonfiction.
Does this mean Chatterbox withdraws his criticism of Carter for going AWOL on the President’s Council on Bioethics, apparently to publicize Emperor, and for failing to account for his nonparticipation publicly? (For earlier items, click here, here, and here.) Even though this is a very important government panel whose decisions might affect whether individuals needing certain experimental treatments will live or die? And even though Carter, who has previously written books with titles like Integrity and Civility, has sculpted a public identity as Mr. Civic Virtue? Should Chatterbox forget that Carter hawked Emperor on NBC’s Today show on the morning of an especially crucial meeting of the bioethics council that Carter, needless to say, failed to attend?
Of course not. Chatterbox still plans to take attendance at the next meeting, scheduled for Sept. 12.
Nonetheless, Chatterbox congratulates Carter for writing a really good book and wishes it long life on the New York Times hardcover best-seller list, where it’s now ranked 13th.