Jacques Barzun passed away last week. He had attained the great age of 103. The official notices that I read seemed to sense that someone had passed the like of whom there was to be no replacement. He was so knowledgeable about so much that he seemed to be a figure from a past age about whom it is difficult to find contemporary example. Whenever I meet a superficially educated youth who has an open mind, I direct them to From Dawn to Decadence and wish them luck.
Barzun valued wisdom over the mere accretion of fact. He was the the scholar of broad horizons. There could be no place for him in the dry politicized world of modern academia. About that world he wrote:
"Is all this the democratization of learning, the new mass scholarship, in which persons of average intelligence but uncommon energy are half lured-half driven to collect, compile and report, without benefit of reflection, without the incentives of a generalized purpose, and without the critical implement of literacy?"
I owe him much and will miss him much as well. Still his works remain and if I give no other good advice to any reader it is this, read Barzun.
Dave Brubeck also died last week. For those of us who remember the 50's and early 60's, Dave Brubeck and HerbieMann were the sound of jazz. They and others lent a sophisticated, engaging hip leitmotif to what seemed an interesting and liberating new time. The times didn't pan out, but the music never stopped. And it was good to the end.