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53 of 57 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars indecipherable genius, November 5, 2011
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This review is from: A Secular Age (Hardcover)
Charles Taylor's A Secular Age has many excellent insights into the development of secularity today. I recommend it to anyone who seeks enlightenment on the subject. However - be warned! -- his writing style is deplorable. I suppose he dictated the book to a stenographer who faithfully recorded every errant word that fell from his lips.
His sentences are long and tedious with innumerable asides. He repeats himself endlessly; refers to items 1, 2, and 3 as if the reader can remember the subtle differences between each point; and often interrupts himself mid-sentence with irrelevant asides. After all the work of reading a dozen pages I am not sure if I've learned anything at all.
After reading 70% of the book I decided he probably has nothing more to say; and, if there is more, it's not worth the effort. If the book is ever republished, I hope an iron-butted editor will rewrite every sentence and make it palatable to readers.

SIX MONTHS Later
I finished the book and have decided to read it again. I have often thought about the place of Christians in our post-modern, post-Christian society. Mr Taylor provides invaluable insight, but he sure makes me work for them.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 13, 2013 6:59:31 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 13, 2013 7:14:04 PM PDT
Paul Needels says:
Ken,

I read your review shortly after becoming aware of the book and while deciding if I wanted to read it. Frankly, your review gave me pause, and I'm glad you followed up with your more favorable "six months later" comments. I probably would have plunged into the book anyway simply because I've been tackling big works like this for some time and discovered that it's usually worth the effort when a book comes as highly regarded as this one.

I now have the book in hand thanks to our local library system, and have been sampling various sections of it while also starting at the beginning. With books like this one I often find myself roaming through the index and dipping into whatever catches my attention until I finally settle into reading the Introduction in search of clues about where the author is going. After reading further I may conclude otherwise, but at this very early stage I'm not finding Taylor's style so much off putting as it is very demanding of close attention, especially as to how key statements relate to supporting material without losing track of the basic point. What I would say at this point is that 1) a strong interest in Taylor's subject will be necessary to carry the reader any distance, 2) a good background in Western history, sociology, philosophy and theology plus a large vocabulary will be of great help, and 3) resigning oneself to some initial struggle while getting used to the author's style should reduce frustration considerably. Going slowly at first (as if one has a choice!) and getting a sense of how Taylor structures his thought and illustrates/expands upon ideas should help, as well as letting one's sense of when the thread of meaning gets lost be a signal to backtrack.

We'll see how it goes. I too may be back in six months with a follow-up report.

Paul Needels
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