I've been meaning to make this post for a week or more, and it occurred to me today to be glad that I've put it off, because today is the perfect day to do it.
Today is Jacques Barzun's 99th birthday, and he is alive to celebrate it. I am ashamed to admit it, but the truth is I never really knew who Jacques Barzun was until this year, when I read Teacher in America, a book I picked up by "chance" at a flea market. Before I'd even finished reading that book, I had acquired two more books by Mr. Barzun, and created a "books to read" list based on books mentioned in his book. One of the books I acquired was Dawn to Decadence, which is subtitled "500 Years of Western Cultural Life." I read the first five pages or so, which thoroughly whet my appetite for the rest of it, but it wasn't a good time to start an 800-page nonfiction book, so I put it aside.
I've decided that 2007 will be the year that I read this book, and I'm giving myself the entire year to do it. If I spread the 800 pages across 50 weeks, I only need to read about 16 pages per week, which isn't daunting at all. I don't expect to like or agree with everything I read, but I do expect to be given much material to think about. I expect to learn about a few people I probably don't know existed, to have a few more titles added to my "to be read" list, and to gain some historical perspective on the trends of our current culture. It will definitely be worth the time and effort to read this book.
So...would anyone care to join me? If you've been thinking about reading it, now is the chance to do so with a plan, a schedule, and perhaps a few companions. If even one or two would be interested in sharing ideas, thoughts, bewilderment, enlightenment, or amusement (I thought the very first page was funny--there ought to be something to smile about in an 800-page book), it would make the entire process even more delightful than I expect it to be. There is plenty of time to acquire the book if you don't have it, and you needn't pay much, as there are dozens of used copies available from the link above.
Happy Birthday, Jacques Barzun. By this time next year, I hope to be nearly finished with this tome, and I hope to wish you a happy 100th as well.