Book Review: The Swerve

The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

Stephen Greenblatt’s book, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, is an excellently well written book that combines both history and storytelling.

It is a scintillating work of historical fiction that is equal to the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. Greenblatt’s book revolves around the life and times of a fifteenth century Florentine/Roman scholar and one time secretary to the Pope, Poggio Bracciolini, and his discovery of a lost poem entitled De Rerum Natura by the first century BC poet Titus Lucretius Carus.

The Swerve strings together the complex weave of religion, society, corruption, greed, immorality, Greek philosophy, war, the lives of monasteries, monks, and libraries to tell the story. This narrative is structured by following Poggio Bracciolini in his pursuits. The Book revolves around Poggio finding this poem which was unknown to civilization for a number of centuries.

He believes that the discovery of this poem written by Lucretius was a cornerstone in the development of humanism and the reshaping of what is now become the modern world.

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Book Review: Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing

Mental Disorders and Spiritual Healing: Teachings from the Early Christian East by Jean-Claude Larchet is an examination of mental illness from an Eastern Christian perspective.

Larchet completes a definitive work on the history, perceptions, and practices of the Eastern Church on mental illness. One has to read it for its historical value. This text is not for those looking at therapeutic solutions for those suffering or dealing with a person struggling with some form of mental illness.

The author’s knowledge of modern psychological conventions and Eastern Church practices is finely interwoven. He provided substantial documentation.

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Book Review: God's Plagiarist

God’s Plagiarist: Being the Account of the Fabulous Industry and Irregular Commerce of the Abbé Migne, by R. Howard Bloch is a wonderfully written, and documented biography of Jacques-Paul Migne.

Who is J.P. Migne, and why would Bloch spend so much considerable time researching, analyzing, and documenting nineteenth century French archives on such a name? Migne was the principal person responsible for publishing Patrologia Graeca, and Patrologia Latina — both series contains the most comprehensive texts of the Church Fathers from Clement to the fourteenth century ever available. It is likely this feat will never be repeated again.

However, the manner by which Migne so zealously went about to produce such works are full of intrigue. The approach of the book is part detective, part ethics, and respective of the political and religious background of nineteenth century France. Bloch believes it to be futile to figure out if Migne was altruistic or self-serving in motivation. He leaves that part for the reader to figure out.

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