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The Goods on the Great Books Project

Reading and just loving A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books by Alex Beam. This from early on:

"Against all odds the Great Books joined the roster of postwar fads like drive-ins, hula hoops, and Mexican jumping beans. Tens of thousands of Americans rushed to join Great Books discussion groups, prompting Time magazine to print the hilarious claim that "Great Books has switched many Americans – at least temporarily- from the works of Spillane to those of Spinoza and St. Augustine." And then nothing. Well almost nothing. Sales sputtered in the late 1960s [after eventually selling 1 million sets], flatlined in the 1970s, and later fell off the cliff. An attempted 1990 relaunch of the Great Books – this time with women! – was a disaster."

Hard to resist too, incidentally, a book dedicated "To my three great sons."

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2 Responses to “The Goods on the Great Books Project”

  1. Amateur Reader Says:

    Joseph Epstein worked for Mortimer Adler, and has a piece on him in “In a Cardboard Belt”. Great piece, but it probably doesn’t have much information that you’re not getting in this book. He’s similarly skeptical about the value of the project.

    I worry that my lukewarm response to “Tom Jones” is partly a result of reading the Great Books edition. Everything was wrong with it – the type, margins, the way the pages felt. A terrible way to read a great book.

    Have you ever looked into that “Syntopicon”? Few less useful books have ever been written.

  2. kims taxi Says:

    Keep blogging, great job!

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