You're just here because you couldn't get a T-shirt.

That's not entirely true. One does gain an interesting perspective on history when one drinks from the firehose.

You're just here because you want some "I can't believe you ate the whole thing" comments.

I get comments like that all the time. I am a man of extremes.

You're just here because you want some validation. Go ahead. Spell it out. 11 volumes. 10,000 pages.

All of it experienced as audiobooks. So 484 hours, 16 minutes.

which as we all know is the worst possible way to experience the written word.

Zero fucks given. Listen, straw-man-who-hates-on-audiobooks: I have time to sit down and read about once a week. I have two and a half fucking hours a day to listen to audiobooks. And you know what? The same people that get all orgazballs over podcasts? Hate the shit out of audiobooks.

That does not change the fact that it's a shitty way to experience a book.

You know what's a shitty way to experience a book? Not reading it. If it weren't for audiobooks I would have "experienced" about four books in the past ten years. As it is, I'm somewhere over 250. And yeah- my comprehension prolly isn't as great as it would be if - no, you know what? Fuck you, straw man. Because my recall on the audiobooks is objectively better than the recall on the written books because you can't skim an audiobook.

Says the guy who finished Durant at 2.5x.

And consumed most of it at 1.7x because for some reason audiobooks are read through molasses. But hey, let's stop talking about process -

this is a one-sided conversation pretending to be two, bud. You're only arguing with yourself.

For an audience, I know. It's dreadful. Look. There was a Bloom County cartoon that came out the morning after "The Day After" played on CBS

Could you be more off-topic?

Srsly. I just subjected myself to 485 hours of European history and I'm here to say, it's nice to know the sun still shines. It's surprising how much of a patriot the experience has made me.

It's almost as if the authors hated the shit out of Europe.

They DIDN'T, though. They loved the fuck out of the French. This has been far and away the most francophile experience I've ever had. They loved the shit out of philosophers, too - Will wrote like eight books about the fuckers when he wasn't busy condensing all of history into 11 volumes. It's fair to say that The Story of Civilization spends more time on Hegel than they do on all of the United States. It's fair to say that they spend more time on Mayer Anschelm Rothschild than they do on Benjamin Fucking Franklin, and the only reason they give him any time at all is because he spent time in Paris. The only time South America is mentioned is when Gauss goes there. Africa doesn't exist. The Story of Civilization, aside from the first book, is really The Story of Europe from the Pyrenees to the Urals with occasional forays into Spain, Italy and Russia but only when there are French people there.

So really, an extraordinarily slanted overview of world history.

And how. But lemme tell ya - it's the slant we all grew up with. I can easily say that the two history classes I took in High School were Cliff's Notes of the first seven books. The pedagogy of Durant is the pedagogy of "world" history.

You like to use the word "pedagogy" without knowing what it means.

It means a method of teaching. The Durants were big fans of "integrated" history whereby they go through the same period a dozen different ways - politics, music, science, art, fashion, theater. So you'll spend as much time on Mozart as you will on Waterloo and you'll hear the same names over and over again because it's all "integrated". The goal, I guess, is to give you a rounded worldview. Mostly you learn how little you care about Madame De Stael.

That is because you are a savage.

No fuckin' doubt. But as a savage that has sat through the equivalent of 10,000 pages of world history -

10,000 pages of survey, asshole -

Shut up. Walk with me. A 5 credit-hour lecture class under the academic quarter system is an hour lecture, five days a week, for twelve weeks. That's sixty hours of lecture. 485 hours is eight fucking quarters of lecture. That's 40 credit-hours. 45 credit-hours is a minor in History at UCLA. And survey or no, I sat through an hour and a half - at 1.7x - on fuckin' Hegel. That doesn't make me an expert on Hegel by any stretch but it sure as fuck entitles me to the opinion that I don't need to spend any more time on Hegel.

So in other words, you sat through twelve man-weeks of audio to justify your anti-intellectual opinions about subjects you scorn. Got it.

Not at all. I'm very glad I went through all this. It gave me a better perspective on the world as we know it, and the world as we've learned it. A survey view of the Renaissance and Reformation, for example, gives you context. Suffering through a hundred hours on "the Dark Ages" teaches you they weren't "dark", they were pointless. John Gardner makes the point in The Art of Fiction that we don't teach the books that are good, we teach the books that are easy to teach and by calling them "The Age of Faith" the Durants make a much better point about that thousand year history than convention allows, and by convention I mean Gibbon, and by "allows" I mean "ignore it because it's pointless."

Scorn AND the assertion that you know better than the experts. Got it.

So the thing about historians is they have a perspective. They have a worldview. Gibbon was the first fucker to take on the Roman Empire since Pliny the Goddamn Elder and for that we thank him but his perspective was pretty much "everything between the Peloponnesian War and the Expulsion of the Moriscos is irrelevant because it was anti-intellectual." That's an easy viewpoint to defend in 1776; a little rougher in 2017. History is of, for and by historians and they tend to worship the writers that came before and argue about whether or not they were right. Primary research takes a back seat to synthesis. The Durants definitely traveled the world absorbing all they could, but they also read what came before and regurgitated it through a new perspective. And there's a definite impetus to not discount that which has come before.

Spit out that quote. You've been dying to vomit it forth for weeks now.

    "By the middle of the twentieth century," says the Encyclopedia Britannica (XVI, Ioa), "the literature on Napoleon already numbered more than 100,000 volumes." Why add to the heap? We offer no better reason than to say that the Reaper repeatedly overlooked us, and left us to passive living and passive reading after 1968. We grew weary of this insipid and unaccustomed leisure. To give our days some purpose and program we decided to apply to the age of Napoleon (1789-1815) our favorite method of integral history - weaving into one narrative all memorable aspects of European civilization in those twenty-seven years: statesmanship, war, economics, morals, manners, religion, science, medicine, philosophy, drama, music, and art; to see them all as elements in one moving picture, and as interacting parts of a united whole.

Your point.

"Pardon us for writing the 100,001st book about Napoleon but we were bored."

Once more with feeling: your point. This is an extraordinarily chatty way to slag on not only a Pulitzer-prize winning series of books, but in a way, the whole of academia.

It took me 4,000 miles in the saddle to get through 485 hours of audio. I'm obviously synthesizing this in real-time -

So maybe STFU until you know what you want to say...

No I want to put this fucker to bed and nobody said you had to read it. HERE'S WHAT I'LL SAY: by couching the history of the world in terms of the history of philosophy, the Durants make a compelling argument that you are what you read. It's basically the argument Edward Said made in Orientalism - the Western world is flummoxed and condescending about everywhere else in general (and the Middle East in particular) because the only time they give any thought to a civilization other than their own is when they're fighting it or subjugating it. If you had no sense of the world outside Europe from 500BC to 1800AD you'd think it was all "here there be dragons" and shit and you would most assuredly regard brown people as savages. And while the Durants are not the history of the world as seen from Western Europe, they are a perfect exemplar of the gestalt view.

More importantly, by not waving hands and saying "none of that matters" about the stuff that isn't easy to teach, you get a better perspective on the grinding hopelessness that European society inflicted on itself. I'm not joking when I said these books made me more of a patriot. One cannot get through these books without hating, individually and collectively, the English, the French, the Spanish, the Germans, the Austrians, the Italians, the Greeks, the Swiss, the Swedish, the Dutch, the Russians, the Portuguese (who barely get a mention!), the Irish and the Scots. History is fundamentally one long litany of rich people being fuckers to poor people, of aristocrats fucking each other over every chance they get, of the little guy being crushed in the wheels turned by the big guys.

The book that won the Pulitzer is Rousseau and Revolution. It's 1092 pages, or 57 1/2 hours. And I sat through the whole book hating Rousseau and wanting the Revolution to come and cut off the heads of all these fuckers. And then it ends right as Louis 16 abdicates and you have to read The Age of Napoleon to get to The Reign of Terror and it's so much worse than you thought it could be that you just want to hug your kid.

And Americans have been horrible to each other and horrible to Natives and horrible to Blacks and horrible to the Japanese but I'm sorry, we're an enlightened bunch of pacifists compared to Europe. This series has caused me to see World Wars I and II as the inevitable outcomes of mechanization applied to longstanding internecine hatred and callous disregard of human life.

The Durants start this whole series with a (comparatively) thin volume called Our Oriental Heritage that is literally "everything that isn't Europe" (or the Americas, or Africa) from 10,000 BC to 1925 and I gotta say - I'm pullin' for the Persians. I'm pullin' for the Indians. The Durants don't come out and say that Spain didn't return to Moorish levels of prosperity until Franco died but that's due in no small part to the fact that when they wrote the book, he had another 40 years to go.

And the Durants start half of their books by reminding you that for most people in the periods they cover, life is placid, calm, cheerful and family-oriented and that it's the ones they've written about that get the shaft. Whenever they have an actual good ruler to talk about, they generally say something like "we wish we had more to say but he ruled for 40 uneventful years and died in bed." But fuckin'A there's a lot of history to Europe that basically boils down to one royal family killing another by proxy through the extinguishing of hundreds of thousands of peasant lives.

Francis Fukuyama caught a lot of shit by titling a 1992 book "The End of History and the Last Man." But man. If "history" is bodycounts on a map, please god let him be right. The whole integrative approach to history argues that the heads-on-pikes aspects aren't the most important. There are plenty of monuments to artists and thinkers.

But there are more monuments to tragedy and you can't sit through 485 hours of European history without the keen perspective that it's mostly heads on pikes. Anybody clamoring about how Trump is the "end of democracy" or we're in end times or some shit just becomes laughable. Things have been so much worse and I, for one, am happy to be descended from brave adventurers that noped the fuck out of everything I spent the better part of a year listening to.


Hegel is like all your psychonaut friends except he didn't need the drugs. "Woah, man, it's like, we're all one, man, the whole world is one mind, right, and history is, like, the world finding itself." He's a lot more fun if you read him in Timothy Leary's voice.

posted by kleinbl00: 720 days ago