gentle rereader

. . . rediscovering Jacques Barzun

American Panorama

Short critical introductions to books recommended in American Panorama, Eric Larrabee, ed., New York: New York University Press, 1957.  Kessinger Publishing Company [reprint], 2010.

American Panorama - 1957 edition

Jacques Barzun was one of fifteen critics invited to recommend works meant to provide “a picture of present-day American civilization and its origins.”  This Carnegie Corporation project included publishing American Panorama and distributing sets of the 350 books recommended “to the [British] Commonwealth countries where the Corporation is active.”  The philanthropic foundation’s officers made the final selections from a list submitted by the five-member advisory committee that included Barzun. His personal recommendations appear below, with page numbers for the single-page remarks.

Two of Barzun’s own recently published works also were recommended by other critics.  Clifton Fadiman’s appraisal of God’s Country and Mine (1954) deserves to be quoted here:  “[Barzun] is not fooled by the European café-society denigration of the American culture; he is too good a European for that.  Nor does he assume that the good life has reached its fulfillment here; he is too good an American for that.  He is balanced without being a compromiser; and, though amiably merciless in seeking out weaknesses, he keeps always in mind that many of them are the ubiquitous weaknesses of twentieth-century industrial man.  …  As an intellectual’s graceful but never superficial survey of mid-century America, this book may be recommended virtually without qualification.” (page 26)

The following page recommends Barzun’s Music in American Life (1956), described by John A. Kouwenhoven with more praise than this partial quotation regarding the book’s origin offers:  “There is no better evidence of the cultural revolution Jacques Barzun (1907–      ) describes than the fact that a report written by the dean of the graduate faculties of a great university, for the Committee on Musicology of the American Council of Learned Societies, gives attentive and thoughtful consideration to juke boxes, jazz, and the economics and aesthetics of phonograph recording, as well as to concert programs, music education, and the principles of music criticism.”

JB’s recommendations of 33 authors and brief remarks on their 35 books may be found on the following pages:

8          The Selected Letters of Henry Adams, edited by Newton Arvin

9           Relation of the State to Industrial Action and Economics and Jurisprudence by Henry C. Adams

16           The American People and Foreign Policy by Gabriel A. Almond

28           The American Faith by Ernest Sutherland Bates

30            Revolution and Tradition in Modern American Art by John I. H. Baur

36             The Dramatic Event by Eric Bentley

63             The Selected Writings of John Jay Chapman [edited by Jacques Barzun]

64             America’s Music by Gilbert Chase

76             Our New Music by Aaron Copland

78             Charles Ives and His Music by Henry Cowell and Sidney Cowell

105           Lincoln Reconsidered by David Donald

111-112    Mr. Dooley at His Best by Finley Peter Dunne, edited by Elmer Ellis

152           The Selected Writings of Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Henry Goodman

153-154   The Politics of Woodrow Wilson by August Heckscher

164            The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table by Oliver Wendell Holmes

175            Selected Papers on Philosophy by William James

176-177    The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James

185            The Life and Times of Kin Hubbard by Fred C. Kelly

188             Our American Weather by George H. T. Kimble

197             The American Impact on Russia – 1784-1917 by Max M. Laserson

201             Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis

213             A Short Walk from the Station by Phyllis McGinley

226             The Oxford Book of American Verse, compiled by F. O. Mathiessen

231             The American Language by H. L. Mencken

262             Genesis of a Music by Harry Partch

265             The Thought and Character of William James by Ralph Barton Perry

275             American Romantic Painting by Edgar P. Richardson

278             Individualism Reconsidered and Other Essays by David Riesman

297-298     The Life of Reason by George Santayana

302             A History of American Philosophy by Herbert W. Schneider

320             Alexander Calder by James Johnson Sweeney

330             The Middle of the Journey by Lionel Trilling

343             Victor Herbert by Edward N. Waters

374             How We Invented the Airplane by Orville Wright

American Panorama - 2010 reprint

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