Friday, October 26, 2012

 The teacher and writer Jacques Barzun, long a luminary at Columbia University, has died in San Antonio at the age of 104.  Those who identify longevity with abstemiousness should note that Barzun had a lifelong habit of drinking two martinis every evening.

As a teenager, I consumed with awe Barzun's two-volume work on Berlioz, which was far more expansive than any other biography I had read because it anchored the life in the times. Later, as a snooty graduate student, I came to view Barzun, unfairly, as a lightweight. I suppose he was somewhere in between an absolute oracle and a popularizer. The most important thing to remember was that he kept thinking and writing throughout his long life.


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