Helen Rittelmeyer was born in Oxford, Mississippi, and raised in North Carolina. She graduated from Yale in May of this year, having served as speaker of the Political Union. Until recently she ran The Cigarette Smoking Blog and she now blogs at Postmodern Conservative. Helen lives in Brooklyn.
Why do you blog? > I got tired of seeing my friends' jokes lost to posterity.
What has been your best blogging experience? > When James Poulos christened my social circle's half-dozen undergraduate blogs 'The Yale Mafia', I felt that our youthful experiment in blogger localism had been validated.
What would be your main blogging advice to a novice blogger? > When you get an idea for a post, blog it right away. I'll sometimes look back through my notebooks and find month-old jottings like 'I TOTALLY WANT A CRICKET FRIEND', which I'm sure could have been a wise and trenchant post if I hadn't completely forgotten what it was supposed to mean.
What are your favourite blogs? > Dan Koffler at The Art of the Possible has a sharp mind and occasionally blogs about Zoroastrianism. Eve Tushnet has made a lot of quietly heroic decisions for the sake of her own deeply-felt Catholic philosophy, which comes through in her blogging, and she proves that it's easier to oppose gay marriage when 'M'dear, not even my ex-girlfriends think I hate gay people!' is a club in your bag.
What are you reading at the moment? > A Rebel in Defense of Tradition: The Life and Politics of Dwight MacDonald by Michael Wreszin.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Dora Carrington. In a time and place when no one was disposed to find sexual restraint very interesting, she charged full-speed into a chaste love affair with Lytton Strachey and discovered that she liked it.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > A Rebours by Joris-Karl Huysmans. The first time I read it, I was trying very hard to be a French Decadent, and by the second time around I had become Catholic. It's my conversion narrative.
What is your favourite poem? > 'The Marshes of Glynn' by Sidney Lanier.
What is your favourite movie? > The Night of the Hunter.
What is your favourite song? > 'King Horse' by Elvis Costello.
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > Extra penalties for hate crimes. I have serious qualms about outlawing a man's opinions, but I think it's fair to say that attacking a man for sleeping with your wife, while certainly immoral, is at least legitimate in a way that attacking a man for kissing his boyfriend in public is not.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > If you wear a mask long enough, it'll sink into the skin, and that's not always a bad thing.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > That the only kind of character suffering builds is the ability to withstand more suffering.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Cigarettes are Sublime by Richard Klein. The title is obviously true, but I'd never seen an aesthetic claim taken so seriously.
Who are your political heroes? > James Michael Curley. I mourn the decline of machine politics.
What would you do with the UN? > Put Matthew Lee of Inner City Press in charge of it.
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Always tip well.
Do you think you could ever be married to, or in a long-term relationship with, someone with radically different political views from your own? > Certainly. Having dated both a liberal atheist with roughly my taste in pop culture and a nice Catholic boy who'd never seen a movie made before 1995, I'd say that only the latter is necessarily unworkable.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > Loyalty. Justice is for strangers.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > A man being stingy with his cigarettes.
What is your favourite proverb? > 'Masters don't get angry, slaves get angry.'
What commonly enjoyed activities do you regard as a waste of time? > Anything to do with cats or dogs.
Who would play you in the movie about your life? > Gun Crazy-era Peggy Cummins.
What is your most treasured possession? > My hardback Oscar Wilde anthology. All of the notes from the year I wrote my senior thesis are written in the margins.
What talent would you most like to have? > Blowing smoke rings that hold together for more than a second and a half.
What would be your ideal choice of alternative profession or job? > Librarian of Congress.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > Sacha Guitry. 'If women were good, God would have one.'
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > To see that every film is released on DVD and available on Netflix.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would go to the movies every night.
If you could have any three guests, past or present, to dinner who would they be? > James Agee, Oscar Wilde, and Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
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