A first generation American, Dymphna was born in Florida in 1941 and had a dimestore novel childhood, which included time in an orphanage and other dramas. She got married early to a crazy person and had three children, after which there was a long search for the door, followed by a second marriage which is permanent. Her three sons range in age from 20 to 43; her only daughter died on May 8 2003. Dymphna spent her early adulthood in New England, Wellesley mostly, and has lived in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains, Virginia, for the last 25 years. Like much else, it was an accidental that became an essential. She has an undergraduate degree in philosophy and has been a chef, a social worker, a freelance editor and a hospital administrator, in what has been a meander rather than a career. Dymphna blogs at Gates of Vienna and The Neighborhood of God.
Why do you blog? > For fun. The discipline of writing. It's a good way to 'meet' people. One of my sons met his wife online; a very fine marriage it is, too.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > Gabriel Marcel, Alexis de Tocqueville, Wilfrid Bion, Frederic Bastiat.
What are you reading at the moment? > The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky, Eccentric Culture: A Theory of Western Civilization by Rémi Brague, and Musa Pedestris: Three Centuries of Canting Songs and Slang Rhymes (ed. John Farmer).
Who are your cultural heroes? > Winston Churchill. He overcame such a horrible childhood and learned to flourish in spite of the blackness. Lincoln, for the same reason. Anyone who transcends pain and evil and lives - or dies - nobly.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > I have ADD something fierce. How about a short story? 'Good Country People' by Flannery O'Connor. I like the quotidian, redemptive thread that runs through all of Anne Tyler's work. When I was a kid I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at least 75 times. Jane Austen for in-betweens.
What is your favourite poem? > That's like having a favorite colour: so monochromatic. I like my husband's poetry (and his landscape paintings) very much, and Pattiann Rogers, and Billy Collins and Wallace Stevens and Auden. Okay... Auden's 'Musée des Beaux Arts', not just for its rhythm and expression, but also its connection with Brueghel.
What is your favourite movie? > Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. I love the way they play with time, as though it's a mobius strip. Maybe it is? The writers/directors, the Sprecher sisters, have an earlier work, Clock Watchers, also about time.
What is your favourite song? > Depends on my mood. 'Stella Blue' by Robert Hunter is one. I re-read his book of songs, Box of Rain, on occasion. I'm re-writing (a little bit) the words to one of his songs for my funeral: 'Yellow Moon'. Another favorite is a Quaker hymn 'How Can I Keep From Singing'. There's a song called 'Merry Christmas from the Family' by Robert Earl Keen that makes me cry. Perfect evocation of flawed, loveable people.
Who is your favourite composer? > Satie, probably. Cole Porter. Gershwin. So many of the Tin Pan Alley guys were incredibly prolific. My son, who writes wonderfully funny and intelligent Americana music: 'She Held That Bottle Tighter Than She Held Me.'
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > I was a kamikaze liberal until the results of the War on Poverty came in. We lost, big time. Now I'm a supply-side philosopher (a la Bastiat).
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Frederic Bastiat's idea that 'liberty is transformative'. When Bush used that exact quote in his convention speech, I knew who his writers must've been reading.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Any brand of Utopianism. Communism, socialism and Pan-Arabism are only the latest examples.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > The Way The World Works by Jude Wanniski. There's much in his social policies and beliefs that I don't like, but The Way The World Works should be required reading in high school. I have sent it to some politicians. He explains supply side economics and trashes conventional wisdom. He's also an optimist.
Who are your political heroes? > Churchill, Lincoln. Currently: Sam Brownback, Joe Lieberman. And my congressman, Virgil Goode. Don't always agree with him, but admire his integrity.
What is your favourite piece of political wisdom? > Wanniski's idea that the Republicans are the Daddy party and the Democrats are the Mommy party. The dads want you to be strong and able to take care of yourself. The moms want you to be safe and for things to be 'fair'. What we need, and don't have, is a Mensch party, one that would provide both strength and compassion.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > The way we look at government as the provider. First I'd get rid of the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and replace it with a flat tax of some sort, based on consumption. Then I'd eliminate several cabinets, beginning with Education, which would revert back to the states. Most of Health and Human Services would go, as would Agriculture. For the others, each and every department would have to cut 20% of its personnel. Other than that...
If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be President, who would you choose? > I don't trust individual opinion in something like this. We get the person we, in the aggregate, believe is best able to run things at the moment. It may mean being stuck with Hillary some day, but you pays your nickel, etc.
What would you do with the UN? > Ah, the misery pimps. The whorehouse on First Avenue. Defund it as soon as possible and tell everyone to go home. Then use the building for council housing and provide some kind of economic assistance to NYC until they realize that having the UN gone is not the financial deficit they thought it would be. Make sure we never centralize again.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > Any kind of Utopian aggrandizing pipedream. At the moment, it's Islam and China. In fifty years, it may well be different. Ol' Europe has some fascism left in her yet. Also, the coming demographic slide may be akin to a world-wide plague, only in slow motion.
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > I'm with de Chardin on this one: it's a mysterious, progressive web of connection that becomes more integrated and distributive. It's the developing, evolving World Mind. The best will always be yet to come. It's a teleological thing.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > The ability to listen.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > Gabriel Marcel and Karen Horney said that tyranny forces us to lie. Any kind of betrayal should be met with a lie.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > Sure, lots of them, if I can just remember them all. Tattoos. Most academics. Feminists. Hate rap music, don't want to attempt to like it. The pimps-and-whores attire that adorns so many bodies in public. Loathe celebrities. Hate television - got rid of mine in 1979. The world view of the underclass. The overweening arrogance of the Supreme Court. Doctors with attitude. People who think ad hominem attacks represent political discourse. Greens who preach eco-silliness - think Paul Erlich. 'Tolerance'.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Words are instruments we use to beat out tunes on broken drums for bears to dance to, when all we really want to do is move the stars to pity.' (Flaubert)
Where would you most like to live (other than where you do)? > Switzerland. Everyone is armed and anally neat. Did you ever see Bread and Chocolate?
If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to? > Well... I've already done that several times now, once officially. If you don't like your name, change it. Sometimes people change it for me, so I've collected a number of nicknames: Anne Hedonia is one. Bunny is another.
What talent would you most like to have? > To play the piano for my own entertainment or to sing on key.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Another one of those can't-have-just-one. Bill Waterson, Bill Cosby, P.G. Wodehouse, Stephen Leacock. And Jonathan Winters!
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To live in a large old house that has had many families before ours. One that is aesthetically pleasing and orderly with lots of nooks and crannies so you could tell the architect had a sense of humour. A house with a library and a spacious pantry and a big linen closet and at least four entrances. Extra large dining room. Its own graveyard.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I'd start a foundation like Grameen. Open a bookstore. Find that house.