Isolani (isolani) wrote in book_worm,

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Jacques Barzun's "Teacher in America"

(Crossposted from my LJ)

A 1944 book I picked up for research purposes, but is actually full of little gems, let me share a few of the highlights (so far) with you: 

(On good writing: p.50)
"The only reason I can think of for the somewhat higher average of good writing in France is that the brouillon is a national institution. The brouillon (ltterally: scrambled mess) is the first draft, and even the concierge writing to the police about anarchists on the third floor begins with a brouillon, later found by his heirs." 

(On book theft from libraries, p.73)
"I say that a college should be proud, within reason, to have its books stolen. Why do people steal money? Because they value it. Apply this to books and you may get a measure of effective education." 

(On 'vocational' education', p. 96) 
"[I]t is the oldest fallacy about schooling to suppose that it can train a man for "practical" life. Inevitably, while the plan of study is being taught, practical life has moved on (...) It would be as sensible to require that newcomers know the floor plan of the factory ahaed of time." 

(On history, p. 104)
"[H]istory being the story of mankind, and men being by definition interested in themselves, it follows that history cannot avoid being interesting." 

(On the (ab)use of the term 'power politics during a debate, p.111 )
"I asked at what point what else politics could be about except power, and was stared at as if I had proposed polygamy "

(On the "Classics")
At one moment in history, Macbeth, is the latest thing out - a rattling good play - horror, murder, thrills, ghosts, with pretty good poetry thrown in free. It could, should be, and was, described in Hollywood terms. Gradually it becomes last's year success, then old stuff, then quaint old stuff. More time and it rises from its ashes, but transformed into a "text". Scholars peck at it like domestic fowl. The play is "early" or "late". It exemplifies the "second manner" or the use of the supernatural. Children are made to feel guilty for failing to remember where the climax comes. In due course, the name "Shakespeare" stands for a consecrated bore, with the odd result that once in a while a good stage performance surprises everybody into feeling that "it isn`t so bad after all" 

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