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How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answerby Sarah Bakewell
Synopses & Reviews
“This charming biography shuffles incidents from Montaigne’s life and essays into twenty thematic chapters…Bakewell clearly relishes the anthropological anecdotes that enliven Montaigne’s work, but she handles equally well both his philosophical influences and the readers and interpreters who have guided the reception of the essays.” —The New Yorker
“Ms. Bakewell’s new book, How to Live, is a biography, but in the form of a delightful conversation across the centuries.”—The New York Times
“Serious, engaging, and so infectiously in love with its subject that I found myself racing to finish so I could start rereading the Essays themselves…It is hard to imagine a better introduction—or reintroduction—to Montaigne than Bakewell’s book.”—Lorin Stein, Harper’s Magazine
“Extraordinary…a miracle of complex, revelatory organization, for as Bakewell moves along she provides a brilliant demonstration of the alchemy of historical viewpoint.” —Boston Globe
“Well, How to Live is a superb book, original, engaging, thorough, ambitious, and wise.” —Nick Hornby, in the November/December 2010 issue of The Believer
“In How to Live, an affectionate introduction to the author, Bakewell argues that, far from being a dusty old philosopher, Montaigne has never been more relevant—a 16th-century blogger, as she would have it—and so must be read, quite simply, ‘in order to live’…Bakewell is a wry and intelligent guide.”—The Daily Beast
“Witty, unorthodox…How to Live is a history of ideas told entirely on the ground, never divorced from the people thinking them. It hews close to Montaigne’s own preoccupations, especially his playful uncertainty – Bakewell is a stickler for what we can’t know. …How to Live is a delight…”—The Plain Dealer
“This book will have new readers excited to be acquainted to Montaigne’s life and ideas, and may even stir their curiosity to read more about the ancient Greek philosophers who influenced his writing. How to Live is a great companion to Montaigne’s essays, and even a great stand-alone.”—San Francisco Book Review
“As described by Sarah Bakewell in her suavely enlightening How to Live, or A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer Montaigne is, with Walt Whitman, among the most congenial of literary giants, inclined to shrug over the inevitability of human failings and the last man to accuse anyone of self-absorption. His great subject, after all, was himself.”—Laura Miller, Salon.com
“A bright, genial, and generous introduction to the master’s methods.” —Kirkus Reviews
“ Bakewell reveals] one of literature's enduring figures as an idiosyncratic, humane, and surprisingly modern force.”—Publisher’s Weekly (starred)
“Lively and fascinating . . . How To Live takes its place as the most enjoyable introduction to Montaigne i
Winner of the 2010 National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography
How to get along with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone youlove--such questions arise in most people's lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: how do you live? How do you do the good or honorable thing, while flourishing and feelinghappy?
This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Monatigne, perhaps the first truly modern individual. A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roamingexplorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before. He called them "essays," meaning "attempts" or "tries." Into them, he put whatever wasin his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling events of the religious civil wars raging around him. The Essayswas an instant bestseller and, over four hundred years later, Montaigne's honesty and charm still draw people to him. Readers come in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment--and in search ofthemselves.
This book, a spirited and singular biography, relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing, youthful career andsexual adventures, his travels, and his friendships with the scholar and poet etienne de La Boetie and with his adopted "daughter," Marie de Gournay. And we also meet hisreaders--who for centuries have found in Montaigne an inexhaustible source of answers to the haunting question, "how to live?"
About the Author
About this Author...
Sarah Bakewell was a curator of early printed books at the Wellcome Library before becoming a full-time writer, publishing her highly acclaimed biographies The Smart and The English Dane. She lives in London, where she teaches creative writing at City University and catalogues rare book collections for the National Trust.
Table of Contents
Q. How to live? Michel de Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer — 1. Q. How to live? A. Don't worry about death ; Hanging by the tip of his lips — 2. Q. How to live? A. Pay attention ; Starting to write ; Stream of consciousness — 3. Q. How to live? A. Be born ; Micheau ; The experiment — 4. Q. How to live? A. Read a lot, forget most of what you read, and be slow-witted ; Reading ; Montaigne the slow and forgetful ; The young Montaigne in troubled times — 5. Q. How to live? A. Survive love and loss ; La Boetie : love and tyranny ; La Boetie : death and mourning — 6. Q. How to live? A. Use little tricks A. Little tricks and the art of living ; Montaigne in slavery — 7. Q. How to live? A. Question everything ; All I know is that I know nothing, and I'm not even sure about that ; Animals and demons ; A prodigious seduction machine — 8. Q. How to live? A. Keep a private room behind the shop ; Going to it with only one buttock ; Practical responsibilities — 9. Q. How to live? A. Be convivial, live with others ; A gay and sociable wisdom ; Openness, mercy and cruelty — 10. Q. How to live? A. Wake from the sleep of habit ; It all depends on your point of view ; Noble savages — 11. Q. How to live? A. Live temperately ; Raising and lowering the temperature — 12. Q. How to live? A. Guard your humanity ; Terror ; Hero — 13. Q. How to live? A. Do something no one has done before Baroque bestseller — 14. Q. How to live? A. See the world ; Travels — 15. Q. How to live? A. Do a good job, but not too good a job ; Mayor ; Moral objections ; Missions and assassinations — 16. Q. How to live? A. Philosophise only by accident ; Fifteen Englishmen and an Irishman — 17. Q. How to live? A. Reflect on everything; regret nothing ; Je ne regrette rien — 18. Q. How to live? A. Give up control ; Daughter and disciple ; The editing wars ; Montaigne remixed and embabooned — 19. Q. How to live? A. Be ordinary and imperfect ; Be ordinary ; Be imperfect — 20. Q. How to live? A. Let life be its own answer ; Not the end.
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