Al's Reviews > The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

The Swerve by Stephen Greenblatt
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Jan 30, 12

Read in January, 2012

This book relates how an ancient Roman poem, lost for hundreds of years, was discovered in a monastery by a 15th century bookhunter and scholar, and how the poem influenced the development of the Renaissance. Unfortunately, the book's subtitle "How the World Became Modern" and the cover description, "A riveting tale of the great cultural 'swerve' known as the Renaissance", are very overstated. These propositions are so pretentious as to be off-putting, and nearly kept me from reading what turns out to be a very interesting story. Most readers probably won't agree that finding this obscure poem caused the world to become modern, or that this charming little book rises to the level of "a riveting tale of the Renaissance," but it IS a very interesting biography of the bookhunter, Poggio Bracciolini, and an interesting discussion of the contention during this period between religions, particularly Catholicism, and the school of Epicurean thought espoused by the poem, On the Nature of Things. No doubt the publishers thought the grandiose promotional statements would help sell the book, but don't be put off by that. Read and enjoy it for what it is.
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