I received a book for Christmas this year (from my Mother, as is often the case) titled “Man of the House” by C.R. Wiley. Although I have not read the entire thing I have skimmed it deeply enough to gain a sense of the contents.

The subtitle of the book is “A handbook for building a shelter that will last in a world that is falling apart” but I felt that I was holding less of a handbook and more of an apology. The motivation for simpering is disclosed rather frankly on page 68, where the author proceeds slowly and circuitously in his argument as he has been already been doing with this excuse, “Rather than jump right in, let’s ease ourselves into the subject as if it were a hot bath.” Which is fine for a spa treatment, but not what I want from a handbook. Later, on page 95, he states even more clearly “Piety, as it was understood in classical times, is so counter-cultural today I had to spend pages getting to this point, otherwise you might have rejected all I am about to recommend without understanding the reasons for the recommendations.” Alas, Mr Wiley, I am not your intended audience.

So, what is he trying to convey behind all this circumlocution? The book is very intentionally broken into four sections, each of which have three chapters. He has given each a title, but I would summarize them as follows:

Marriage. Children? Yes, children.
Capital. Work is what it sounds like. Children again!
Disagreeableness? Glory. Holiness.
King. Fellow. I said children again!

The underlying theme is the “household” as a coherent alliance closely identified with the child-bearing marriage and the ownership of capital. So in two words C. R. Wiley is proposing “Patriarchal capitalism” as the method for building societal arks which will outlast calamitous culture. No wonder he felt too intimidated by the cultural climate to say as much frankly, but he would have saved me quite a bit of time if he had.

Not that I disagree. And in fairness, distributism may be a better mapping for his proposal than capitalism, and rather than patriarchal we might dare to hope for Catholic. But The Wiley One in question is a Presbyterian, and knows of the catholic, and has not recommended it, so I would be putting words in his mouth to phrase it thus, even though I hazard the words fit better.

Thanks for the book Mom! Perhaps next year, I’ll write one for you.

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