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July 29 , 2008

The Code of Man


"In many ways," Waller R. Newell writes, "young men today are in deep spiritual trouble. But they are also yearning for a way back to the noblest ideals of American manhood." The Code of Man represents a deep and thought-provoking effort to help guide contemporary men back to those ideals, as embodied in what Newell calls the five paths to manliness: love, courage, pride, family, and country.

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At the dawn of the twenty-first century, he argues, we have grown so concerned about the roles of sex and violence in our society that we have forgotten the older virtues: romance and eros, courage and patriotism, the blend of love and bravery it takes to raise a family. In The Code of Man, he exhorts us to look to the traditional virtues of the past for inspiration. Contrasting the time-honored lessons of traditional voices – Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln, Jane Austen and Teddy Roosevelt – with the chaotic signals emanating from sources like Eminem, video games like Thrill Kill, and Goth culture, Newell illustrates how we have come to associate courage with violence, "transgression" with wisdom. Most disturbing, he argues, the essential triumph of Western culture may have left us with a building reserve of untapped aggressive energy, and no consensus about how to channel it – a situation that threatens to weaken us at the core.

Seamlessly weaving together literary references from a diverse body of sources, Waller Newell offers an open-eyed look at what it means to be a man in America today, and a clarion call to recapture our traditions if we are to preserve our character as a society ... and avoid catastrophe.

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