Jacques Barzun's most successful book published when he was 92
Jacques Barzun was one of the great thinkers of the past century — a scholar who, in a remarkable eight-decades-long career, wrote dozens of books and analyzed subjects ranging from classical music to detective fiction, and from Jonathan Swift to baseball.
Barzun, who died yesterday in San Antonio at age 104, is best remembered for a book that, amazingly, he published in 2000 at age 92: From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life From 1500 to the Present, a sprawling 877-page opus that ambitiously sought to cover the ideas hatched by every great mind in European and American culture, from Martin Luther and Molière to comedian Bill Murray. While Barzun’s dour view, as Atlantic magazine blogger David Wagner puts it, was that western civilization “has been declining steadily since the Renaissance,” his own productivity as a writer didn’t waver as he got older....
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