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A Jacques Barzun Reader: Selections from His Works (Perennial Classics) Paperback – July 8, 2003
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Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
So there I was in the neighborhood bookstore and I see a brand spankin' new Barzun reader. Since I read in tangents, the format seemed a bit scattered but I bought it, knowing that I would always, no matter what tangent I was on, find something of interest in this volume.
I couldn't have been more right!! I've had the book for, maybe, nine months now and I'm STILL finding, savoring and rereading these excerpts. So many topics covered- from baseball to Berlioz, crime-fiction to higher education, race to romanticism. These days, whenever someone writes about so many subjects, there's always a suspicion that we, the readers, will find ourselves slighted- how can one person actually EXCEL in so many areas and still retain quality and grace. Barzun is a stunning example of someone who can and if you're anything like me (not reading all the way through, but reading each exerpt as it strikes your fancy), this book will rank on your 'most rewarding purchases' list
Is the book too small? I don't know -- perhaps any such compilation of Barzun's extraordinary & humane writing would be too small, too exclusive. These essays are (presumably) Murray's choices, & I have no quarrel with them per se. But where are other long-treasured & fascinating Barzun essays, such as "James the Melodramatist" or a thoughtful (& negative) critique he wrote decades ago on Eric Partridge's "Usage & Abusage"?
I begin to see that, in fact, a complete collection of Barzun's written work -- all seven or eight decades of it -- is called for. It would, of course, require numerous volumes. "A Jacques Barzun Reader" is an excellent start. I am happy to learn from the dust jacket that Michael Murray is writing a biography on Barzun.
A minor cavil with Murray's method: He chose not to footnote or otherwise indicate his alterations to Barzun's original text for a fairly sensible reason. However, I found myself wondering just which passages or what information was omitted from the reprint of various essays in the book.
"Criticism as I understand it differs entirely from attack or complaint. Its difference from complaint is especially important here, for I am persuaded that complaints against the machinations of culture today have become as poisonous as the things complained of. This is not surprising. Resentment and indignation are feelings dangerous to the possessor and to be sparingly used. They give comfort too cheaply; they rot judgment, and by encouraging passivity they come to require that evil continue for the sake of the grievance to be enjoyed.
"Criticism, on the contrary, aims at action. True, not all objects can be acted on at once, and many will not be reshaped according to desire; but thought is plastic and within our control, and thought is a form of action. To come to see, in the light of criticism, a situation as different from what it seemed to be, is to have accomplished an important act."
A Jacques Barzun Reader is a book for readers of Barzun, would-be readers of Barzun, and readers who have never liked Barzun.Read more ›
It is especially valuable since some of Barzun's most famous commentaries (for example, on baseball) are now out of print and hard to find. Buy this book, you will profit from having it on your bookshelf!
Ideal for young people and students, who will find here a vast treasure-trove of necessary cultural reference. (So now you know who Berlioz was!) A place to begin building your humanities education, and your intellectual character, as it seems many of our colleges are no longer up to the task. It's one of those books that'll make you a better person. No fooling.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
France had some great thinkers and writers, but the political system is like having too many kinds of cheese to avoid thinking the French spend so much time in caves. Read morePublished 6 months ago by no chit
This guy is way too smart. God. He's either brilliant and I'm dumb but some is hard to get through.
And I really admire his work. Just some of the material here is dry for me.
Jacques Barzun is one of my favorite writers, bar none. This isn't quite as good as "From Dawn to Decadence," but still worth reading.Published on July 1, 2014 by Jkarl
Whilst this collection may contain some of Jacques Barzun's thinking set forth in other work, the pieces on Samuel Butler, Goethe's Faust, Oscar Wilde, and *anything* he writes on... Read morePublished on December 23, 2012 by R. Richard Schweitzer
Great selection of subjects. Orifinal insights, well substantiated. Above all, beautifully phrased. Not one pompeous sentence and yet, elegance that is enviable. Read morePublished on May 1, 2009 by Adina Brenner