Alex Beam's A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious PDF

By Alex Beam

ISBN-10: 0786726989

ISBN-13: 9780786726981

ISBN-10: 1586484877

ISBN-13: 9781586484873

Today the classics of the western canon, written by means of the proverbial “dead white men,” are cannon fodder within the tradition wars. yet within the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties, they have been a popular culture phenomenon. the good Books of Western Civilization, fifty-four volumes selected via intellectuals on the collage of Chicago, all started as an academic circulate, and developed right into a profitable advertising suggestion. Why did 1000000 American families purchase books through Hippocrates and Nicomachus from door-to-door salesmen? and the way and why did the nice books fall out of favor?

In A nice suggestion on the Time Alex Beam explores the nice Books mania, in an pleasing and surprisingly poignant portrait of yankee pop culture at the threshold of the tv age. Populated with memorable characters, A nice inspiration on the Time will go away readers asking themselves: Have I learn Lucretius’s De Rerum Natura in recent years? If no longer, why not?

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Extra resources for A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books

Example text

Hutchins had ideas, and quickly acted on them, or at least tried to. He wanted to make admission to Yale Law based solely on grades, to reduce the number of “gentlemen” finding their way in through family connections. He sought to merge legal studies with the new social sciences, and hoped to add an anthropologist and a psychologist to his faculty. Columbia Law School had just turfed out a like-minded pack of reformers, one of them another scholarship boy, William O. Douglas from Yakima, Washington, whom Hutchins promptly hired and befriended.

Over the years they perfected an intellectual Mutt ’n’ Jeff act, with Hutchins playing the stern protective parent and Adler the bumptious and unruly child. In multiple-page, single-spaced, self-typed letter after letter over sixty years, some of them mailed from offices on the same campus, Adler preens, struts, and begs for Hutchins’s approval. Yes, they socialized, but Adler, the author or coauthor of almost sixty books and a dervish of a typist, adored the written word. In a typical letter, “full of self-pity,” Adler asks Hutchins: “To whom else can I go with my problems, when they are of this sort?

He knew the men on the University of Chicago search committee and confided to them that his fractious, brilliant young colt of a dean probably needed five more years of seasoning before taking over a major research university. They politely ignored his warnings, and Hutchins eventually took the job, partly because he had a problem that was not immediately apparent on first meeting: Robert Hutchins was easily bored. That had never been Mortimer Adler’s problem. He, too, had crammed a lifetime’s worth of work into little more than a quarter century.

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A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam


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