I was attracted to this book because of the Pulitzer Prize recommendation. I like well written books about antiquity, classical philosophy & languages, etc. I'm about two hours into it. There is fascinating information about how books were written and preserved over the centuries. But this book is also an anti-Christian polemic. Early Christian intellectuals and leaders are criticized for their asceticism and alleged intolerance. Mr. Greenblatt draws caricatures and straw men and then compares them to his idealized versions of Epicurean philosophers and pagans. Frankly, I have had enough of that. I wish I could get my money back. I cannot listen to this book anymore.
There is some flavor of Mr.Ballerini reading a dirge for the loss of 98% of books and works from antiquity, as well as Christian mobs destroying libraries and worms eating scrolls and codices. His reading style was not as sad as listening to someone reading thousands of names of people who have died in some public memorials, I've been to. No,I wouldn't go that far.
There was information about the creation of books in antiquity. I liked the description of what scribes did, where they did their work, what kind of writing materials they used, how books were preserved. The description of recovering a library at Pompeii was good.
If you don't like Christianity or believe that orthodox Christians from the past tried to stop people from enjoying themselves altogether and that Epicurean philosophers have a better answer for the human race, then this is the book for you. It is well researched in some respects and well written.
Before I read this book I read "On The Nature Of Things" first. I hate reading books about a book before reading the actual subject-book first. That way I can have better appreciation of what the subject the author is talking about. This book 'The Swerve" is more about the era of rediscovery in the early 15th century, than about Lucretius. If you are intent to know about Epicureanism or Lucretius this could be one book, but the study is a broad one and you will need to find other authors that specifically focus on that material. To be sure the rediscovery of books like the work of Lucretius, did not help the theocracy of that time. The author does a good job humanising the long dead book hunters of the late middle ages. That is the best aspect of this book. Its the story of book hunters and the beginning of the end of Christian theocracy in Europe, not the story of Lucretius.
I'm not sure what I enjoyed more about this book, the history of manuscripts and the lengths of adventure one had to go through in order to discover them in the middle ages, the insights into the philosophy and worldview of a certain class in Roman society, or the fresh view on the birth of the Renaissance. But one thing that is certain is that I enjoyed all these aspects in this performance. In some ways this book is a hodgepodge of diverse subjects from the history of free thinking to the history of ancient manuscripts, but it never feels disjointed. It was one of those works that, when it ended after nearly 10 yours, left you yearning for more. After finishing this audio book, I went on to read Lucretius' 'On the Nature of Things', the rediscovery of which was the topic of this work, which was also a fascinating work in its own right, but not nearly as fun or as riveting of this superb performance.
This was not at all what I expected from the subtitle but it was an intriguing story nonetheless. Mystery, history, philosophy, the Vatican, rare book hunters, colourful characters and much more. All of this revolving around the rather accidental rediscovery of a lost text. Who knew something so seemingly small would have such an incredible influence on western culture. Very interesting! really enjoyed it.
Love listening to books.
This book is very interesting, and also hard to review. The historical content about On The Nature of Things by Lucretius is very good and well researched. However, it is also a very small part of the book. Most of the book is about the person that re-discover the poem - Poggio Bracciolini. While I find some of the information about Poggio interesting, it has less to do with the thesis by Greenblatt on the poems influence on the Renaissance.
It is very clear that Greenblatt has a great deal of admiration and respect for Poggio, and that he values his contribution in finding On The Nature of Things greatly. However, the act of discovery is only a small part of the book. He spends a great deal telling us of how Poggio became who he was, what circles he traveled in, how his employer the Pope lost his job, how he eventually made his own way, and eventually how he retired.
I very much enjoyed the information around Lucretius' poem, but thought the material about Poggio was just too much.
One of my favorite non-fiction books.
Destiny Disrupted. Both presented historic facts like a dramatic story (in a good way).
Improve breathing, eliminate heavy breaths.
The tale narrated by Edoardo Bellerini is based on the somewhat audacious premise that an ancient poem, "The Nature of Things", rediscovered in the fourteen hundreds, tipped the waiting world into the Renaissance, ending the so-called Dark Ages. That hypothesis is, at the very least, a bit overblown. However, the author's account of the search for lost literary works of ancient Greece and Rome gives us a fascinating look into the flower - and ultimate downfall - of these great civilizations. I marveled at the perseverance of the Medieval scholar, Poggio Bracciolini, who found himself out of work after the dethroning and eventual execution of his employer, Pope John the 23rd. (No relation to the modern Pope of the same name...) Bracciolini set out on a journey that took him to England and across much of Europe, lead by tantalizing hints of the Great Poem's existence somewhere in an unknown archive - perhaps a monastery...
Edoardo Bellerini reads "The Swerve" with passion and style - perfect for this work. I'm already looking for another read by him.
I highly recommend, "The Swerve". Maybe "The Nature of Things" didn't actually bring us into the Modern Era. On the other hand, the great scholars who were motivated to retrieve it certainly kept the spirit of inquiry and the love of reading alive during an aptly described time of great cultural and societal darkness.
Okay - I'm a little biased. I dance to an Epicurean drum. But this story has it all. If you've in the slightest bit interested in how a Roman poem, referencing Epicurus, written 100 years before Christ can sum up our 'modern scientific' view of life, the universe and everything, then this is your book.
I'm still buzzing about the wealth of ideas in this book. I'm getting "On The Nature Of Things' straight away.
Simply put this book is a gem. Plant a shovel and dig up the precious stuff inside.
Fine art photographer, retired English professor, dog mom to an adorable Maltese mix, long-time Californian, genealogist, what else?
I'm a huge fan of Greenblatt's "Will in the World," so I was happy to try this one. I was not disappointed. This is a absorbing account of the re-discovery of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura in the Middle Ages and how it affected thinking in the Renaissance and beyond. The story is fascinating, the reader excellent, and listeners will not be disappointed. I'm now reading Lucretius' poem itself, and only wish that I could read it in the original Latin, though A.E. Stallings has a good recent (2007) translation.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
I wanted to like this book. I really, really wanted to like it. It came highly recommended from a very respected person, so I began it with great excitement.
And then it just didn't measure up.
I found the story hard to follow. When were things just "a person" and when were they someone with a name, and what was that name? How did we go from one place and suddenly be in another place?
There were some interesting points that I drew out of the book, but in general, it just fell short for me. Off to something I'll enjoy better...