All posts tagged “Pyrrhonism

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How to Live: Or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer, Sarah Bakewell (2011)

-Michel-Eyquem-de-Montaig-001Well this is just terrific. Montaigne can come across as requiring no interpretation, since the essence of his m.o. is to appear artless, but Bakewell’s efforts to place him in his historical, cultural, and literary contexts were for me both supremely helpful and thoroughly delightful. I was particularly engaged by her concise sketches of the Greek philosophers from whom Montaigne drew his inspirations, and the way she traced his reception by different audiences over the centuries, from Descartes’ horror at his nonchalance to our contemporary thrall over the idea of him as a proto-Modernist bricoleur. Every age decides afresh what he means, while he continues to contain his multitudes. I’m sure scholars will find this book a bit breezy, but for a middlebrow like me it was a joy. Bakewell’s got a great sense of humor, too, and a very inviting and engaging style. I have to note too what a hoot it was to read in the late going Bakewell’s amused account of one of Tom Conley’s rakish riffs on Montaigne. It involves teats, turrets, and a wolf. I’m not going to list any other specific pleasures because I’m stealing them all for future poems and I don’t want you to figure out that I didn’t just make them up on my own. (I’m as much a magpie as Montaigne, but not nearly as willing to own up to it.)