Paraphrased nuggets from a really big book people say is great (From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun, 2000) with occasional annotations:
• Dante was a nickname. His real name was Durante. (p. 113)
As in Jimmy?
• Faust was a puppet show in England when Goethe saw it and got inspired. (p. 112)
Now if only we could make a puppet show out of Goethe’s writings, imagine what it might inspire!
• Virgil was a magician. (p. 47)
He sure pulled The Aeneid out of his ass!
• The French Protestants provoked their own massacres. (p. 86, 113, etc.)
I’m not getting involved.
• Amerigo Vespucci really does deserve all the credit. Because he knew. (p. 104)
• Don Quixote is not a novel. (p. 111)
• Da Vinci was not a “Renaissance Man.” (p. 79)
• Tolstoy proved that opera is absurd. (p. 176)
• Italians used to be considered smart. (p. 149)
• Academia started as writers workshops. In Italy! (ibid)
• Germans were once peaceful and doltish. (p. 178) Part of being a Renaissance Person was being anti-German, euphemistically referred to as Gothic. But everyone knew you meant them.
• The Counter-Reformation was really just reform. Every society has its Inquisition, they just don’t call it that. (p. 38)
• Luther : Calvin : : Marx : Lenin (p. 34, 37)
Ok, so then Vespucci : Columbus : : Ben Franklin : Everyone who got struck by lightning before Franklin?
• Thomas Aquinas was almost excommunicated–twice! (p. 40)
Three times could be a charm Benedictus!
And yeah, I’ve only gotten to page 200–about a quarter way in.
©2012 Alan Brech–no one can steal from Barzun the way I just did