The Written World

The Written Word coverThe Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization
Martin Puchner
Random House (October 24, 2017), 458 pages
Kindle edition $12.99, Amazon hardcover $17.90

Martin Puchner is a professor at Harvard and the editor of the Norton Anthology of World Literature. He knows a thing or two about the written word, or as he calls it, world.

In this book he writes both about the influence that the written word has had over the millennia and about the specific places where those influences arose. When he writes about The Iliad the describes his visit to Troy. When he writes about the revolutionary impact that Gutenberg had with the development of movable type he describes his visit to Mainz, Germany where Gutenberg did his work. When he discusses the work of Derek Walcott he actually visits the elderly author, since deceased, on the West Indies island of Saint Lucia. I’m not sure how Puchner obtained his travel budget, but he got around.

Snark aside, however, this is an engaging book. One of the great things about it is that he does not limit himself to the Western literary canon, though that gets plenty of attention. Puchner writes about the Tale of Genji in Japan, the independent literary tradition of the native peoples in Central America, and the oral tradition in West Africa.

This is interesting material and engaging reading.

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