Our book for the September AIA book club meeting is The Written World by Harvard scholar Martin Puchner. The following are comments which should make you eager and happy to include the book in your summer’s reading.
– The Written World combines great stories of people, history, and literature to show how the power of the written word has influenced civilizations throughout time. Over this remarkable, engaging book, Puchner tells stories of creative people whose lives and beliefs led them to create groundbreaking foundational texts and show how those texts affected the world they were born into. Puchner offers a truly comprehensive and worldwide literary perspective, spanning time and cultures from Homer to Harry Potter. He writes about Ezra and the Old Testament; a young woman in 9th century Japan who wrote the first novel, The Tale of Genji; a wild story about Cervantes and pirates; how Benjamin Franklin became the father of print in the United States, and more. Puchner takes us to Troy, Pergamum, and China, speaks with Nobel laureates Derek Walcott in the Caribbean and Orhan Pamuk in Istanbul, and introduces us to the wordsmiths of the oral epic Sunjata in West Africa. We watch Goethe discover world literature in Sicily, and follow the rise in influence of The Communist Manifesto. Puchner also focuses on writing technologies, including the invention of paper, the printing press, and the modern book, and how they shaped not just writing, but religion and economy, too. Taking us from clay tablets and ancient scrolls all the way to internet tablets and scrolling down on computers today, Puchner will change the way you view the past, present, and future of literature.– Provided by publisher.
There is a joyous personality in this book. Puchner describes himself, modestly, as a ‘teacher’ (so, of course, did of Confucius). In fact, he holds an endowed chair at Harvard. But he doesn’t sit on it. Fieldwork for The Written World takes him to every continent, digging inexhaustibly into cultures for their foundational and sacred stories. Martin Puchner’s score on Rate-MyProfessors.com must be sky-high. I suspect he is as enlightening at the lectern as on the page. – Reviewer John Sutherland in The New York Times Book Review<