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Thursday, January 19, 2012

An Experienced Guide Offering a Tour of His Native Land

Imagine you had a chance to take a tour with an intelligent, lively, and humorous guide, who has lived in the fascinating region you a touring for many decades. What a joy! Well, this is what reading Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence is like. The book was published when he was 93 (he is now 104!), so it is likely he had spent, by the time he wrote it, some seven or eight decades "living in" the land of Western history. And he has used that experience to compose a book unlike any other I have ever read. What he does is sort of amble around 500 years of history, and chat with you about all of the interesting things you would miss without him as your guide, and all that the landscape you are passing brings to his mind. In lesser hands the result might have been an aimless meandering, but Barzun's wit and insight keep the journey constantly interesting. I highly recommend reading this book.

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