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The Modern "Never Mind"
on 15 June 2001
Reading this book is like listening to one of Mozart's string quartets played by a few beginning saxophone students. Sure, you might recognize the significance of the content, but the execution leaves you longing for a performance commensurate with its substance. I found myself continually putting it down and returning to other books on my shelf, such as Everdell's "The First Moderns" or Schorske's "Fin de Siècle Vienna."
In all fairness though, Watson's book is remarkably ambitious in its attempt to cover the entire scope of twentieth century intellectual history in one volume. Undertaking this daunting task alone merits a few stars. The author's apparent breadth of knowledge is impressive and it was somewhat nice to read a broad work on a subject so prone to esoteric treatment. Watson's book brings needed perspective. I learned some things reading it, but I would not want my students to model his writing. The word "encyclopedic," used elsewhere in reference to this book, is an accurate description--for better or for worse.