Friday, January 30, 2015

Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve is not a new book, but it's still plastered all over the history section at Barnes & Noble--with National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize prominently displayed--so it's still worth pointing out that it is a distinctly bad book.

Jim Hinch's old and somewhat infamous takedown of The Swerve, then, still merits attention:
Simply put, The Swerve did not deserve the awards it received because it is filled with factual inaccuracies and founded upon a view of history not shared by serious scholars of the periods Greenblatt studies. That such a book could win two of America’s highest literary honors suggests something doesn’t work in the awards system itself.
Read his whole review here. It's worth your time if (a) you've read the book (b) you're intrigued by it (c) you still talk about the medieval period as some benighted "Dark Ages" where learning died or (d) you tend to assume that the big non-fiction book awards reward quality.