What a journey. My brother sent me the book a few months ago--June, I think b/c it was shortly after his birthday.
500 years of the world's dominant cuWhat a journey. My brother sent me the book a few months ago--June, I think b/c it was shortly after his birthday.
500 years of the world's dominant culture, the culture that brought you the notion of culture.
Barzun's style, after you are accustomed to it enough to read it at all, is flowing but pithy; that makes for what I call a dense read. My tramp through this book's 800 or so pages of story excluding the 100 pages of end materials, was conducted on bus and toilet seats, a paragraph here and a page or so there. On occasion, I would indulge in a longer session at bedtime.
There is no question of Barzun's credentials to undertake this sweeping and virtuoso endeavor of a story. He was vastly knowledgeable and researched. Some of his in-textual references are to his own previous works on various topics including biographies of obscure but important figures.
Barzun describes the age of nations that started in Europe with institutions that created widespread stability around 1500AD and that had ended by 2000, the copyright year of the book, with the decadent destruction of the same institutions. His thesis that the West has declined is interesting and not as dooming as it seems at first blush. The idea is actually that, decaying, this culture may give way to something even more marvelous.
Liked it: the usual linguistic romp, political stomp, and tromp through wartime Italy, but with a terrific pop-cultural twist--the memoir of an era. The speculations into cognitive paradox were OK too.
The difference between a crafty writer and a skilled writer is the difference between gimmick and device. Eco is a great writer and what's-his-name is a gifted translator....more