Nearly 100, the noted thinker contemplates the last half-millennium. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Now 92, Barzun, the renowned cultural critic, historian and former Columbia provost and professor, offers much more than a summation of his life's work in this profound, eloquent, often witty historical survey. A book of enormous riches, it's sprinkled with provocations. For example, Barzun contradicts Max Weber, arguing that the Protestant Reformation did not galvanize the capitalist spirit. With feminist ardor, he depicts the 16th century as molded and directed by women "as brilliant as the men, and sometimes more powerful" (e.g., Queens Elizabeth and Isabella). His eclectic synthesis is organized around a dozen or so themes--including emancipation, abstraction and individualism--that in his judgment define the modern era. Barzun keeps up the momentum with scores of snappy profiles, including of Luther, Erasmus, Cromwell, Mozart, Rousseau and Byron, as well as of numerous unsung figures such as German educator Friedrich Froebel, inventor of kindergarten, and turn-of-the-century American pioneer ecologist George Marsh. Other devices help make this tome user-friendly--the margins are chock-full of quotes, while vignettes of Venice in 1650, Weimar in 1790 and Chicago in 1895 give a taste of the zeitgeist. In Barzun's glum estimate, the late 20th century has brought decadence into full bloom--separatism in all forms, apathetic electorates, amoral art that embraces filth or mere shock value, the decline of the humanities, the mechanization of life--but he remains hopeful that humanity will find its way again. This is a book to be reckoned with. First serial to American Scholar; BOMC selection. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
[From Dawn to Decadence] is arguably the best thinking man's bedside book ever written.?--Peter Green, "Times Literary Supplement"A stunning five-century study of civilization's cultural retreat."--William Safire, "New York Times""From Dawn to Decadence, in short, is peerless." --"New York Times Book Review"How many times in one's life does one get to welcome a masterpiece, which, without a doubt, this amazing work certainly is?" --"National Review"Likely -- I am tempted to say certain -- to become a classic."--William H. McNeill, "Los Angeles Times"Barzun writes with unfailing, stylish lucidity and enlivens his vast tale with ingenious devices." --"The New Yorker"[Barzun] restores color to faded memories of history and paints in the mural here bits were missing."--Sebastian Mallaby, "Washington Post Book World