There are two stories here. The first is an interesting story about a book hunter tracking down a lost tome. The other is an anti-religious diatribe. The former is compelling, the latter is heavy handed and inaccurate. The way the author frames Christianity in the first 1500 years would lead a read to believe they were all pleasure hating masochists. It is in this obvious disdain for religion that his credibility as intellectual guide through the ages is compromised.
What could have make The Swerve better? Focus on the first story.
More about the book hunters of the Renaissance.
I guess so.
Possibly as a documentary about Lucretius and the discovery of his poem. I'd avoid Greenblatt's over-wrought hypothesis that this one book changed the course of humanity, though.
I wouldn't buy this as an audiobook. Possibly it's better in hardcopy.
Modernity comes in the smallest yet greatest of ideas, the atom. Greenblatt's chronicle of both the content and history of Lucreticus' poetic and didactic epic On the Nature of Things is a must listen for the present citizen of modernity/post modernity.
Far exceeded my expectations. The author takes a now obscure event and weaves a tale which brings together 2,000 years of history and philosophical thought.
I ignore genre labels. Some of my favorite books are outside my genre comfort zone. Listening to audiobooks is still reading. Not theater.
I purchased this book quite some time ago. I started to read it then, but put it aside because at the time I wasn't up for the level of attention it clearly required. I recently picked it up and this time I made it through. I am very glad I did.
The focus of the book is on the rediscovery of an ancient poem "On the Nature of Things" by Lucretius, and the impact that rediscovery had on the swerve towards modernity and the beginning of the Renaissance. The poem, which stems from the author's devotion to the beliefs and ideals of Epicurianism, was written almost 2100 years ago and was rediscovered by a priest on a mission almost 600 years ago.
I admit I have never made it through an entire translation of "On the Nature of Things" and since I don't read classical Latin I will never tackle the original. But I have read substantial portions and have found them both lyrical, perceptive and surprisingly modern. I was interested in learning about how the poem was viewed within the context of the time of its rediscovery.
I think it is far fetched to give this rediscovery alone so much credit for swerving western civilization into the modern world. But I do agree it is one of the important factors. Greenblatt used this event as a launching point to explore several of these events and factors and the key participants at the time. The portions of the book that focused on the time period, the people and leaders who lived through them and especially the martyrs created by a church desperate to avoid any thoughts or ideas that did not mesh neatly with their doctrine, were fascinating. Much of this information wasn't new, but Greenblatt is quite a story teller. Large sections of the book were real page-turners. And it is rare to find a non-fiction book about a 2000 year old poem written to honor one of the fringe philosophical movements of the time, that was rediscovered by a Catholic priest about 1600 years later after being long forgotten and buried in a monastery, that could achieve "page-turner" status.
I highly recommend this book. And I highly recommend it be listened to. Edoardo Ballerini is one of my favorite narrators and he does an outstanding job on this book. His narration is what moves this from a four star to a five star.
Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).
This book is less a history lesson than it is a worshipful panegyric extolling the virtues of materialistic atheism. I found it to be well written and wonderfully narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. What I did not find it to be was correct. Greenblatt’s premise is that the lost poem of Lucretius, “On the Nature of Things” was instrumental in shaping the modern way of thinking. And what was this great rediscovered revelation so nearly lost to history? “The denial of divine providence and the denial of the afterlife were the twin pillars of Lucretuis’ whole poem” (8:29). I hardly think that atheism was in danger of being forgotten. Greenblatt succumbs to the common error of many who spend their lives in the hollowed halls of higher learning: he fails to consider that the normal state of man is a life lived in rebellion against God. For Greenblatt the recovery of this lost poem of Lucretius was not just a boon to literature but to epistemology as well; for through it we remain connected to our classical atomistic roots. He attributes Lucretius the virtue of restoring our atomistic understanding of the ontological nature of the universe. This was summed up in the words of the modern popularizer of atheistic thought, Carl Sagan, who famously, and nearly reverentially, put mankind in his place with the words, “We are star stuff.” No humanistic, materialistic atheism was never in danger of extinction. That said, this book is an entertaining excursion exploring humanistic thought and Greenblatt makes his case as well as he can considering his presuppositional basis of Godlessness.
Seems a bit all over the place. Lacked focus.
While the story is interesting, it felt like I was listening to a conversation with a very knowledgeable professor that had been drinking. It was written to be believable but felt like some of it was made up or embellished but I was not smart enough to be able to put my finger on it to call it out. Overall I'm not real sure what the point of the book was?
Beautifully written and performed. The thesis is not completely convincing, but definitely interesting. The book offers a unique examination of a period in time and way of life that were profoundly impactful on our modern world. A highly enjoyable, thought-provoking listen.