Felipe Fernández-Armesto, 2000
I saw this book at Cody's and the premise made me want to snap it up:
a survey of world civilizations organized by biome. It's hard
to imagine a book better engineered to attract my interest. But then
I noticed the name of the author: Felipe Fernández-Armesto.
I'd read his book Millennium, which attempted to survey the
history of the years 1005 to 1995 but dissolved into a tract against
abortion and euthanasia. So I decided to check Civilizations
out of the library. Good idea: I wound up bailing after about a
hundred pages. Collapse may have
spoiled me, because after reading Diamond's treatments of Greenland
and Easter Island and Chaco Canyon, I had little interest in
Fernández-Armesto's much shallower accounts. He's known for
his prose style, but he seems much more interested in alliteration
and allusion than he is in arresting turns of phrase, so I wasn't
really all that impressed. And reading his asides was even more like
listening to Dana Carvey's Grumpy Old Man than watching the last half
hour of No Country for Old Men was.
Bad enough when he talked about the virtues of unhappiness, or
badmouthed the idea of building sustainable societies — when he
started going off about how clothes don't have enough starch these
days, I checked out.
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