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View Diary: Jacques Barzun: From Dawn to Decadence (37 comments)

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  •  Thank you for apologies and best wishes. (2+ / 0-)
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    Monsieur Georges, Upper West

    I guess I thought you were angry because you were "talking as you did during your days at Columbia."

    I don't have any difficulty in recognizing the 'distinction' between the claim 'everything Bill has to say about Barzun is wrong' and the claim 'everything Bill has to say in his attempt to contribute to an understanding of Barzun's thought is wrong.' There's no subtle distinction between the two claims. The difficulty was that you wrote the first when you meant the second.

    If your argument is that 1968 was central in determining Barzun's judgment of the course of Western culture, then your argument is wrong.
    No, that wasn't my argument regarding From Dawn to Decadence. I don't think Barzun's experience of Columbia in 1968 was "central" in determining his judgment that Western Civ was entering decline. What I think is what I wrote above--that that event "seemed to influence" his thinking on Western culture. I still think that, after having read your excerpts about his personal politesse during the events. I'm not alone in thinking Columbia 68 influenced the development of Barzun's views. Here's a line from the NYT obit:
    If Mr. Barzun kept the political issues of the day at arm’s length, he nonetheless developed a reputation as a cultural conservative after the student protests at Columbia in the late 1960s.
    So I do believe that Columbia demonstrations informed his thinking about decadence. But I also know that many other events and trends convinced him that the West had finally entered decadence/sterility: because Barzun points to those "objectionable" behaviors and trends in the book. In the diary I reference his dismay with other post-Columbia trends in late 2Oth century culture. And experiencing Columbia demonstrations isn't "central" or necessary to develop the opinions that Barzun gives in FD2D; he (for one) saw evidence everywhere else to support his thesis.

    I don't think my description of Barzun's warning (that great values and legacies were being turned on their head or discarded in favor of comparative garbage) was "wrong." And I don't see how I was wrong to tell readers that Barzun believed that 'clowns were now running the circus.' (That wasn't his phrasing, but I'm sure he believed that with regard to Western culture and the life of the mind.)

    My source for that understanding of Barzun in FD2D, is Barzun. Before I wrote this diary, I was watching two interviews with him online. (One was with Arthur Schlesinger after the publication of FD2D, that one is archived at C-SPAN.) So views I expressed here about what Barzun said and meant in FD2D, are based not just on my reading of the book, but also on Barzun statements about about the book and Western cultural decline.

    Again--I'm not claiming any expertise on Jacques Barzun. I'm just taking him at his word, in FD2D and in the interviews. There I see resentment: resentment of a cultural life he viewed as populated by modern second-raters passing themselves off as intellectual and artistic lights, and resentment of poorly educated types who accepted them as such. (I disagree with that view of the late 20th c. and I said why--but I don't see where I misunderstood B's views, or gave the readers here the wrong impression of what he argues in FD2D.)

    Best wishes to you too, and be well.

    Co-author of the first political biography of Michele Bachmann: Michele Bachmann's America

    by Bill Prendergast on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 08:01:42 PM PDT

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