The Greatest Book of All Time
Getting Its Place in History
With the tools of knowledge and wit, Jacques Barzun has created the most significant and culturally definitive works of all time. The Columbia professor shows his French ties (he was born there, 1907) through the un-proportional focus on that country in the book, yet is able to thoroughly describe every aspect of Western culture in the last 500 years.
This masterpiece will undoubtedly be required reading for historians from now on, and they will be thankful. It is, after all, a very pleasurable read. The greatest gift that this author has given to the reader is the intense feeling of inspiration which is guaranteed by each reading.
To quantify this inspiration is difficult, but it easy to see how the simple recitation of the great things in history (i.e. culture), can inspire. From Dawn to Decadence gives the reader such a magnitude of perspective that it is impossible to come away from it not wanting to better the world.
Whether or not it is the result of its contents, this history comes at a time when inspiration is lacking in the world. The decadence to which the title refers has produced a void of meaningful culture and as a result, Dawn acts as a fork in the road for our civilization.
|â€œIntellect watches particularly over language because language is so far the only device for keeping ideas clear and emotions memorable.â€
– Jacques BarzunJacques Barzun continues to be a leading voice in the fields of literature, education, and cultural history.
History Writing is Reality Television in Print
When compared to the great fiction pieces like The Odyssey, Pride and Prejudice, War and Peace, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, From Dawn to Decadence stacks up nicely given Barzun’s amazing ability to personalize the mass quantity of events within the book.
With reality television becoming the latest version of entertainment, it is easy to see how people can be taken with what is actually happening versus what someone has written or created. And that happens with meaningless television like the Bachelorette; when the reality is major world events, the entertainment value increases dramatically.
Barzun’s writing style allows the reader to absorb the immense vault of knowledge, while personifying the names and dates which have been etched in history. He is able to bring life to events such as the Reformation, the American revolution, and the original summer of love in the 1890s.
This monolith in literature should be seen for its witty approach to history and its almost poetic stucture in addition to its obvious central idea: the decline of Western culture.
Indeed, there has been a decline, “the cruel, perverse and obscene [is] more and more taken for granted as natural and normal,” and Barzun, no doubt, is doing all he can to slow down the decline and reverse the trend.
People are interested, too. In 2000, Dawn topped the New York Times Bestseller list, surprisingly to many.
Some may deride Barzun’s efforts in putting the twentieth century in its place, and call it foolish, counter-progressive, conservatism. They might see his overarching principle of rise and fall, which supposedly apply to five centuries of culture, as lazy, but with the amount of perspective he had gained, it is wise to identify such large ideas. We have seen such a rise and fall in other great civilizations like Rome, and Greece.
Barzun’s critics may be leaning towards the opposite path of the fork in the road which this book has created for civilization. The author’s opinions about the way culture is headed may just have fueled a catalyst to save that culture which he defends so well. Hopefully the popularity of this work will push the rest of civilization along the path which barzun himself is traveling.
– JSB Morse