16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Charming style, manipulated content,
This review is from: The Swerve: How the Renaissance Began (Hardcover)
I read this book in a day, in a state of constant frustration.
Its style is its best feauture: agile, witty, elegant, it makes it very easy to get hooked to the text, like some kind of thriller novel. I guess it is for this reason that it won the Pulitzer prize for non-fiction.
The problem is the thesis that Greenblatt wants to demonstrate, or better the way it is demonstrated. The rediscovery of the Rerum Natura may be one of the important events of the Renaissance age -even the author in the text is aware that the "how the renaissance began" of the title is a bit too much - but the use of the historical data available around the event is very unprofessional. To demonstrate the truth of his thesis Greenblatt sometimes simplifies, sometimes overemphasizes the data; sometimes pass under silence very important facts or dismiss them as unimportant. For exemple when he is busy depicting in the darkest way the obscurantist approach of Christian towards ancient culture, the more ambiguous approach of Augustin, or the experience of Cassiodorus and the monastery of Vivarium is totally overlooked; when he is discussing the written insults that the humanists traded between each other, to emphasize what pit of vipers the papal court was, he forgets to tell us how this kind of exchange had a long series of predecessors in classical and middle ages literature and was part of a well know at the time literary game.
For people not too worried about historical depth, accuracy and nuances.