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The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination

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By piecing the lives of selected individuals into a grand mosaic, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin explores the development of artistic innovation over 3,000 years. A hugely ambitious chronicle of the arts that Boorstin delivers with the scope that made his Discoverers a national bestseller.


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By piecing the lives of selected individuals into a grand mosaic, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Daniel J. Boorstin explores the development of artistic innovation over 3,000 years. A hugely ambitious chronicle of the arts that Boorstin delivers with the scope that made his Discoverers a national bestseller.

30 review for The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    I don't usually like surveys of history, but Boorstin still does a good job of describing hundreds of artists, scientists and dreamers that formed the western conscience. It is a long book but as each chapter is just a handful of pages, it is not difficult to read. You could read this as a sort of introduction and then choose various people and then go off and research biographies of them independently as I did. In any case, it is readable and interesting. I don't usually like surveys of history, but Boorstin still does a good job of describing hundreds of artists, scientists and dreamers that formed the western conscience. It is a long book but as each chapter is just a handful of pages, it is not difficult to read. You could read this as a sort of introduction and then choose various people and then go off and research biographies of them independently as I did. In any case, it is readable and interesting.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Laurel

    I won this book as a prize in my History of Psychology class in college. We had to come to class dressed as one of the psychological figures we'd learned about that semester. Most came as Freud or Erikson, with a few Skinners thrown in. I came as Phinneus Gage, a mild-mannered railroad worker from Vermont who got stabbed in the head with a tamping iron and lived, but became such an asshole no one wanted to be around him anymore, thus giving researchers insight into the goings on of the temporal I won this book as a prize in my History of Psychology class in college. We had to come to class dressed as one of the psychological figures we'd learned about that semester. Most came as Freud or Erikson, with a few Skinners thrown in. I came as Phinneus Gage, a mild-mannered railroad worker from Vermont who got stabbed in the head with a tamping iron and lived, but became such an asshole no one wanted to be around him anymore, thus giving researchers insight into the goings on of the temporal lobe. I came to class in bloodied railroad-striped overalls and fashioned a tamping iron out of cardboard that I affixed to my head. I started yelling at everyone in my class, using a plethora of dirty words in my best Vermont accent. I won. Hands down. But I still haven't read this book...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sharla

    This is not a book most people would sit down and read cover to cover. I've been reading it in bits since November of 2015. I have to admit there were a few sections that did not interest me so much that I skimmed over quickly. This book is a tremendous achievement with a broad scope and well worth the effort of reading even if it takes some time. This is not a book most people would sit down and read cover to cover. I've been reading it in bits since November of 2015. I have to admit there were a few sections that did not interest me so much that I skimmed over quickly. This book is a tremendous achievement with a broad scope and well worth the effort of reading even if it takes some time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    David

    It wasn't long enough - seriously. It wasn't long enough - seriously.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Todd Stockslager

    Review title: Present at the creation 3 books, 12 parts, 70 chapters: Boorstin has written an encyclopedia of the imagination. Starting with a background in the creative forces harnesed or inhibited by the major world religious traditions: Hindu, Confucian, Jewish, Christian, Islam, Boorstin then begins his journey through the creative arts starting with the most material: architecture and sculpture. The first creative arena involving words is drama, which he traces from its Greek roots in repres Review title: Present at the creation 3 books, 12 parts, 70 chapters: Boorstin has written an encyclopedia of the imagination. Starting with a background in the creative forces harnesed or inhibited by the major world religious traditions: Hindu, Confucian, Jewish, Christian, Islam, Boorstin then begins his journey through the creative arts starting with the most material: architecture and sculpture. The first creative arena involving words is drama, which he traces from its Greek roots in representations of moving sculpture! Much like any structure of organization (the Dewey Decimal System, the encyclopedia, Rogets thesaurus), Boorstin's organization of the information becomes both part of the information and informs the information it orders. Not every reader will agree with his structure but it is a useful way to focus on an incredibly broad vista. And as he describes these creators and their modes of creation he reminds us at the beginning and again in an endnote much later, "We are better able to see the what and the how than the why." So this is a book of the whats (architecture, art, music, drama, novels, poetry) and the hows (places, peoples, cultures, and individual creators) in a structured framework without a lot of analysis or theorizing on the whys. And indeed, as Boorstin leads us through his framework of the men and women he introduces it is interesting how often he uses the term "mystery" when it comes to the why (the motive, the cause and effect, the impetus, the inspiration) for these creators. For example, James Boswell's obsessive record of Samuel Johnson's life and conversation (some called him an "accidental" biographer, we learn), or Herman Melville's decision to make a (fitful at best) living at writing which resulted in a few early popular successes but a tepid reception and sales in his lifetime for his one true masterpiece. While we humans may create because we are made in God the Creator's image, we are a sin-broken version of the model so our creations are as often flawed as we are. And perhaps it is that record of failure that makes the successes Boorstin describes here (and that we absorb with a spiritual appreciation) shine with such transcendent beauty. Boorstin's framework progresses from arts that recreate the external world to arts that create the internal self. The division is essentially between the classical and the modern, divided by the Enlightenment. The progression inward culminates with James Joyce's stream of conciousness writing and Picasso's progressive painting, then Boorstin tacks on a brief epilogue of the art of the film, which feels like it needs to be developed into its own section, to explore more fully the nexus if creation in what Boorstin calls a "public art" that involves thousands of people and millions of dollars. The Creators is a good survey of the range of the creation and the creators, with notes for further reading on both. While the book's publication in 1992 means that the references are now dated, they can still serve as a good starting point for the reader's own journey through the classics. Readers may also want to read Jacques Barzun's: From Dawn to Decadence , from 2000, which I rated five stars for its brilliant and opinionated stance in mapping 500 years of culture.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rodrigo Acuna

    "A taster menu of creators of all kinds of ideas" Religion architecture, painting, literature and music are all mentioned given as a morsel of possible exploration in a sea of possible subjects, some historical influences and religious influences are explored as to why cultures creations differ and some historical events influences are explained. A great way to open up one's appetite for knowledge just do not expect it to be encyclopedic, this is a fun exploration of history and some of the influe "A taster menu of creators of all kinds of ideas" Religion architecture, painting, literature and music are all mentioned given as a morsel of possible exploration in a sea of possible subjects, some historical influences and religious influences are explored as to why cultures creations differ and some historical events influences are explained. A great way to open up one's appetite for knowledge just do not expect it to be encyclopedic, this is a fun exploration of history and some of the influential stories of new ideas.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Whiskey

    The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination by Daniel J. Boorstin is a collection of descriptions of various creations throughout the history of humanity. This collection includes the creation of various religions, styles of architecture, literature, visual arts, and music. In addition, by explaining how each led into the next creation, Boorstin provides a comprehensive study of how mankind, especially Western civilization, invented and re-invented itself. The Creators: A History of Her The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination by Daniel J. Boorstin is a collection of descriptions of various creations throughout the history of humanity. This collection includes the creation of various religions, styles of architecture, literature, visual arts, and music. In addition, by explaining how each led into the next creation, Boorstin provides a comprehensive study of how mankind, especially Western civilization, invented and re-invented itself. The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination is a comprehensive and fascinating study of man's creativity throughout history. The prologue encompasses Parts 1-2 and offers an overview of religions and how they affected man's abilities to create. These religions include very basic surveys of Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Homeric verse, Judaism, Theology, Christianity and Islam. Book 1 includes Parts 3-5 and focuses on the early creation of mankind. Part 3 is centered on architectural advances in history, such as the pyramids and the Pantheon, while Part 4 highlights early visual arts, such as cave drawings and the battle against images by both the Christian Iconoclasts and Muslims. Part 5 hones in on performance art, showing how the dithyramb developed into comedy and tragedy, as well as the creation of prose for purposes of persuasion. Book 2 consists of Parts 6-10 and provides an emphasis on re-creations of previous creations. Part 6 covers the humanities as it was affected by the emerging religion of Christianity, and Part 7 focuses on the development of literature, starting in the Middle Ages and continuing through to the eighteenth century. Part 8 focuses on visual arts, Part 9 emphasizes the creators in the sphere of music, and Part 10 concentrates on various other creations, such as photography and the skyscraper. In Book 3, which is comprised of Parts 11-12 and the epilogue, the author focuses on the creation of the self, mainly in literature. Part 11 focuses on literature exclusively, including essay, biography, autobiography, and several influential authors: Goethe, Wordsworth and T. S. Eliot. Part 12 fixates on literature also, but the final section is focused on the stylistic inventions of Pablo Picasso. Some of the authors examined in Part 12 include the following: Herman Melville, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Virginia Woolf. The Epilogue provides a very brief exploration of film and its association with the public, who acts as a participant by being the audience. Dante Dante (1265-1321) created the epic of every man's exile from life to death in a poetic combining of courtly love with the love of God; "Divine Comedy" (1308) was autobiographical, broader, more dramatic and more didactic than Dante's earlier works as it followed the progress of Dante's soul, telling the story of a man confronted with the consequence of the cosmology of the Middle Ages and causing Dante to be deemed the creator of modern literature. Boccaccio The horrors of the plague provided Boccaccio with the incentive and opportunity to write stories of human adventures and misadventures without morals. In the "Decameron", he created "a human panorama of love, courage, cowardice, wit, wisdom, deceit, and folly" (p.269). Geoffrey Chaucer The pilgrim metaphor permeated Christian literature with its own rituals and had become a flourishing institution by Chaucer's time, providing the reason Chaucer used pilgrimage for his contribution to the human comedy. "Canterbury Tales", written in the last decade of Chaucer's life, marks a surprising new vision and outshines all of his other works as it is written as a narrative poem in which a group of thirty-one pilgrims, representing many various social groups, traveling from London to Canterbury share tales. Creating a new version of the human comedy, "Canterbury Tales" also shows sample forms of medieval narrative, use of Arthurian themes and morals in each narrative. Rabelais Rabelais wrote five volumes about "Pantagruel", luxuriating in vulgarity. According to the author of this book, "when we read Rabelais in translation, we are grasping for his wit through a veil. Rabelais's book was an act of faith in a language he was beginning to make literary" (p. 294). Cervantes Cervante's "Don Quixote", sometimes called the first modern novel, was born as a kind of anti-novel, written to kill off romances of chivalry and accidentally creating the prototype of the novel. With this commercial success, Cervantes created a new form, the Western novel, which reached out even as it reached in; unlike typical romances of the time where the hero was an epic figure, Cervante's hero was a modest man. William Shakespeare Shakespeare produced his own version of the human comedy for a new audience in a newly flourishing art form as the Renaissance furnished a community of spectators like those who inspired the great Greek dramatists. Though Shakespeare also wrote poetry, the best of which being his 154 sonnets published in 1609, he was committed to the theatre, writing thirty-six plays in his life. Shakespeare represented nature though his characters, and the cult of Shakespeare has never died; George Bernard Shaw termed the idolatry of Shakespeare as "bardolatry" in 1901. John Milton John Milton's "Paradise Lost" created "poetry and prose of the pains, rewards, and vagaries of man's adventures in choice" (page 320). After publishing "Comus" in 1634 and "Lycidas" in 1637, Milton spent twenty years writing prose, including "Defense of the English People" in 1649 and "Of Education", one of the last manifestos of Renaissance humanism in 1644. After being imprisoned and going blind, Milton wrote his great epic, "Paradise Lost", where the drama and tragedy come from the choices made by God, Satan, Eve, Christ and Adam. Milton also wrote "Paradise Regained" (1671) and "Samson Agonistes" (1671), though he never sought solace in easy dogma or became a member of any sect. Few poets ever did more to make the English language live than Milton. Balzac Honore de Balzac (1799-1850) published all of his works as "La Comedie humaine" in 1841. A prodigy, Balzac wrote ninety-two novels, dozens of short stories and six plays, and he gave the new classic shape to the novel by creating a novel of ideas. Giving the greatest intensity of life to his characters, he made the novel into a modern kind of history which was more elusive and intimate than the respected classic forms. Charles Dickens Dickens (1812-1870) was a great event in English history as well as English literature for his career was "a grand literary love affair with the English public" (page 364). Among Dickens' many famous works are "Pickwick Papers" (1836), "Oliver Twist" (1839), "Nicholas Nickleby" (1839), "Martin Chuzzlewit" (1844), "David Copperfield" (1850), "A Christmas Carol" (1843), "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), "Bleak House" (1853), and "Great Expectations" (1861). Fascinated with the theatre, Dickens took leave of the public actively when his doctor warned him against public readings because of his ill health. At the last engagement during a series of reading in 1870, Dickens announced to the audience that he was vanishing forevermore from the public as he cried. Leonardo da Vinci Vinci (1452-1519) defended the artist's sovereignty by claiming painting was liberal art because it dealt with the works of nature as well as an infinite number of things nature never created. Da Vinci left only seventeen finished paintings and several unfinished paintings, some of his most popular being "Mona Lisa" (1503) and "The Last Supper" (1498), but the quality makes up for the lack of quantity. Michelangelo Michelangelo (1475-1564) is a legacy from the Renaissance who transformed art, taking man from the imitation of nature to a re-creation of nature. He created many famous sculptures as a youth, and when he was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he agreed to the project though painting was not his art. After four years of labor, the ceiling was unveiled in 1512 and was an incomparably excellent work. Michelangelo's genius "inspired others to make a fetish of genius" (p. 419). Johann Sebastian Bach Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), the first "colossus of music in an age that idolized the artist genius" (p. 428), created a variety of music that excels all modern composers. He was idolized as a genius who created music for both the church and the general public. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart A child prodigy on the violin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) composed eight symphonies, four divertimentos and some sacred works in only a few months when he was just sixteen years old. His best works were composed during the summer of 1788, including his symphones in E Flat, G Minor and C, and when he died at age thirty-six of malnutrition and overwork, he stated "I have finished before I could enjoy my talent" (p. 451). Beethoven Beethoven (1770-1827) recreated instrumental music by elaborating Haydn and Mozart's classical forms for wider audiences. Beethoven's Sixth Symphony in F Major was considered the prototype of program music, and he is widely praised for his work with instrumental music and possibilities in the orchestra, as well as for uniting the music of instruments and the music of words to create new forms. Monet Monet (1840-1926) was encouraged to preserve his first impression, and he developed into a bold Impressionist. His paintings had no subject and were only the momentary impression on his unique self; "his achievement was not in the durable but in the elusive moment" (p. 524). Benjamin Franklin The second classic biography, "Autobiography" by Benjamin Franklin is explored in Section 59: The Arts of Seeming Truthful: Autobiography, and this allowed him to create a new and modern form of literature: the success saga, a chronicle for the self-made man. Though "Autobiography" is incoherent and incomplete, it is often called the first American addition to world literature. James Boswell James Boswell, the first biographer, wrote about Dr. Samuel Johnson. "Life of Johnson" (1787) is meant to exhibit Johnson more completely than any other person had yet been preserved, and this biography announced "a modern literary creation- the individual life becoming the raw material of art" (p. 598). Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) found his place among the great creators of Western literature for giving enduring form to the spirit of the Medieval legend of Dr. Faustus in "Faust" which he wrote off and on from 1770 until his death in 1832. He transformed Dr. Faust into a hero on a quest for fulfillment as a metaphor for the "infinitely aspiring always dissatisfied modern self" (p. 605). William Wordsworth "Lyrical Ballads" (1801) by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) announced a revolution in poetry by declaring independence from the stilted conventions of poetic language by focusing on making a new expressive view of poetry. Wordsworth's best poetry was works of remembrance, but his focus on himself was not enough to sustain an epic. T. S. Eliot A century after Wordsworth, an anti-Romantic revolution came into English literature with T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) and his manifesto, "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (1917). Eliot and his collaborator, Ezra Pound (1888-1972) declared themselves the enemy of the Egotistical Self as they believed poetry was about continual self-sacrifice and extinction of personality, not about the poet. Finding security in a banking job, Eliot wrote his best poems while employed at the bank, including the first modernist poem published in America, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915). "The Waste Land" (1922) aims to express incoherence, and Pound hailed it as justifying the movement of the modern experiment. Herman Melville Seizing upon the popularity of whaling in New England in the early nineteenth century, Herman Melville used it as the subject of his great American epic, reflecting on the paradoxes of good and evil. Though it lacks the development and conflict of characters necessary for a novel, "Moby Dick" presents personalities described as caricatures, and Ahab's hunt for the whale represents the mystery of the self; for twentieth century readers, the novel became one of the most popular vehicles for the modern self. Fyodor Dostoevsky Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) became the idol of Western literature despite his novels laying siege to Western values. He saw the materialism of Western science and mathematics as a denial of freedom. Drawing on his experience in prison, Dostoyevsky wrote "Crime and Punishment" (1866) about the story of a struggling soul, while "The Brothers Karamzov" (1879) accumulated the thoughts and impressions of his life. His "fanatic Slavomania reminded the West that there might be dimensions of life not seen in the clear stream of consciousness or in the murky depths of the unconscious" (p. 671). Marcel Proust Marcel Proust (1871-1922) used time as the subject of his eight volumes created as a "new way of conquering time's transience and evanescence" (p. 684). The four volumes of "Remembrance of Things Past" is divided into seven sections focused on the following seven themes: childhood, awakening loves for people and the arts, high society, homosexual and heterosexual love, ways of being possessed, deprivation, and the cycle of recapturing life through memory. Proust believed the artist could capture and make himself immortal, though the disintegration of the self was continuous death. His originality was his way of conquering time by making it the raw material of his novel and "making it his art to re-create life in time rather than in space" (p. 696). James Joyce James Joyce (1882-1941) explored other outreaching possibilities of the self and "encompassed time in autobiography, creating new ways to make the self universal" (p. 699). He brought together the novel and biography as never before in "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (1916) and "Ulysses" (1922) by expanding his ideas from childhood and adolescent trials into a personal epic. By making art follow nature and focusing on the act of creation in the arts, Joyce recreated the mystery of art and the universe, making "the language of the self an invitation to rediscover and delight in the mystery" (p. 714). Virginia Woolf Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) shared her wonder at the mystery of the feminine self by experimenting with the self in her writings which were frequently about female authors. Making the novel her medium for exploration, she "wrote of the world within her, which she imagined also to be within others" ]]

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dora

    This book is what I deem the ideal combination of useful and fun facts. It is interdisciplinary and, what I perhaps love most about it, non-linear. By "non-linear" I mean that, even though each chapter has a specific theme, Boorstin does not stick too closely to that theme. He enriches the text with interesting pieces of information that complement the main theme and make the chapter more dynamic. These "recesses" give the reader additional perspectives, background information or just fun facts This book is what I deem the ideal combination of useful and fun facts. It is interdisciplinary and, what I perhaps love most about it, non-linear. By "non-linear" I mean that, even though each chapter has a specific theme, Boorstin does not stick too closely to that theme. He enriches the text with interesting pieces of information that complement the main theme and make the chapter more dynamic. These "recesses" give the reader additional perspectives, background information or just fun facts and great comparisons that enlarge their knowledge. All the chapters are "bite-sized" (approximately 10-15 pages), which adds to the dynamic feeling of the book and are really well-organized. I really love Boorstin's writing style as well; it's a combination of non-fiction and fiction. He seems to be able to tell a great story through biographies and historical recaps while including so many important facts which the reader ends up remembering through association or precisely because of this elegant story lines in which they are embedded. Boorstin has been criticized for being "outdated" (this book was written in 1992 after all), but the edition I read was nicely updated via endnotes. So for all of you who are concerned about this, please don't let it stop you from reading the book. It's really worth it!

  9. 5 out of 5

    William Brown

    The author has a great fund of knowledge and many of the short biographies were fascinating: Dickens, Melville, Eliot. Coverage of the Mediaeval period was scant, with 90% of the figures post 20th century. The author's love affair with progressives was annoying and the book is terribly skewed toward a leftist, liberal view of history. I actually did not finish the last 100 pages. An entirely different book could have been written by another author with a different worldview: I much prefer Jacque The author has a great fund of knowledge and many of the short biographies were fascinating: Dickens, Melville, Eliot. Coverage of the Mediaeval period was scant, with 90% of the figures post 20th century. The author's love affair with progressives was annoying and the book is terribly skewed toward a leftist, liberal view of history. I actually did not finish the last 100 pages. An entirely different book could have been written by another author with a different worldview: I much prefer Jacques Barzun or Christopher Dawson.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lizzie

    Ok, so far, what I have learned from reading this book is make certain you get the illustrated version. Otherwise you will do what I did and run down your phone battery googling everything. I can't believe my library has an edition without illustrations. It is a book about great art for heaven's sake!! Ok, so far, what I have learned from reading this book is make certain you get the illustrated version. Otherwise you will do what I did and run down your phone battery googling everything. I can't believe my library has an edition without illustrations. It is a book about great art for heaven's sake!!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    One can only conclude from reading this book that Daniel Boorstin was a genius. The book contains an amazing survey of world history. It's a behemoth of a book and I can no longer believe I read the whole thing, which means I need to reread it. One can only conclude from reading this book that Daniel Boorstin was a genius. The book contains an amazing survey of world history. It's a behemoth of a book and I can no longer believe I read the whole thing, which means I need to reread it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    A mighty tome to be read and savored. It is packed full of information and beautifully written.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ericb

    A great history of the arts, too place along Boorstin's other great historical book (The Discoverers). A great history of the arts, too place along Boorstin's other great historical book (The Discoverers).

  14. 5 out of 5

    David Hill

    This second book in Boorstin's knowledge trilogy covers the arts, more or less. Its focus is, like the previous volume, is a "view from the literate West". It begins with the creation myth itself, then proceeds through sculpture, architecture, painting, dance, music, drama, poetry and prose, and, finally (in a short epilogue), film. Had I attempted to read this book when it was first published, I think I'd have been quite frustrated. I found myself going to the internet to find pictures of the v This second book in Boorstin's knowledge trilogy covers the arts, more or less. Its focus is, like the previous volume, is a "view from the literate West". It begins with the creation myth itself, then proceeds through sculpture, architecture, painting, dance, music, drama, poetry and prose, and, finally (in a short epilogue), film. Had I attempted to read this book when it was first published, I think I'd have been quite frustrated. I found myself going to the internet to find pictures of the various works discussed. This was the case more for the first parts of the book than the last, as a series of photos can give a sense of a building or painting but is much less useful when it comes to the works of Proust or Cervantes. Like the Discoverers, this book is a nice jumping-off point for further investigation. And, like that earlier volume, this one is made up, essentially, of a bunch of short stories: a biography of some Creator (William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci, Richard Wagner, etc), a description of their work, and why their work was significant. Given the breadth of the subject, and the number of "artistic" disciplines covered, I think Boorstin did a great job. It has been said (originally by Martin Mull, probably) that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture." He's not trying so much to describe the music (or painting, etc) itself, but what made this music (or sculpture, etc) different from what came before; what made it important. Of course, it's impossible for a book like this to meet the expectations of all readers. Myself, I was surprised that, given the amount of space devoted to music, jazz is barely mentioned (it has but one entry in the index). And the art of film gets only nine pages in an epilogue. The reference notes are not what I'm used to (i.e. specific source information) but much more general. There is no separate bibliography and no pictures.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anthony

    This was a long, and yet amazing, tour of all the arts from Classical times to almost present day. Daniel Boorstin does a fabulous job of explaining and describing different types of art from different cultures. He starts with the various stories of creation, from Hinduism, Confucianism, Greek and Roman mythology, to the story of Moses and Christianity. He then discusses different types and styles of architecture, sculpture and artistry, the written word in the form of poems and essays and novel This was a long, and yet amazing, tour of all the arts from Classical times to almost present day. Daniel Boorstin does a fabulous job of explaining and describing different types of art from different cultures. He starts with the various stories of creation, from Hinduism, Confucianism, Greek and Roman mythology, to the story of Moses and Christianity. He then discusses different types and styles of architecture, sculpture and artistry, the written word in the form of poems and essays and novels, and he ends with art and literature in the early 20th Century. With each topic, he states perspectives and insights that I never knew or had ever heard of before reading this book. The works he cites are works that many of us are familiar with. But one of my issues with this long book is that I wish there were illustrations or pictures of the works he is citing or the individuals he is writing about. Although by not having pictures, I ended up Googling a lot of what he was referencing, especially art and architectural works. My other issue is that he focused primarily on Western art and architecture. He does briefly describe how Japanese architecture was different in that it was wood based whereas Western architecture was more stone based. But when he describes the great classical painters, writers and other artists, he focuses solely on Western individuals. I would have liked to know what was going on in India, Japan, China nd South America, while Shakespeare was writing his plays or Kafka was writing his novels. Despite my issues, this was still an entertaining read, as well as being educational.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Alice Beyrent

    This book has been on my bookshelf for 25 years, just waiting for a time when I could spend time with it. Having just finished a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, I thought this would be a good followup. I found this book to be a more difficult read. The author's outline begins with an analysis of the role of God in creating, moving to Man as a creator in the image of God the Creator, and winding up with Man's role in creating for the self. It was very comprehensive and explored the development of This book has been on my bookshelf for 25 years, just waiting for a time when I could spend time with it. Having just finished a biography of Leonardo da Vinci, I thought this would be a good followup. I found this book to be a more difficult read. The author's outline begins with an analysis of the role of God in creating, moving to Man as a creator in the image of God the Creator, and winding up with Man's role in creating for the self. It was very comprehensive and explored the development of all of the creative arts from antiquities to the mid twentieth century, selecting representative "artists" to develop the creation of the period. The biographies were every entertaining and the information presented was enlightening, not only for people and periods that I was already familiar with, but also for the development of an art form through time. Although it took a long time to finally finish this book, I finish feeling much more enlightened about the development of artistic vision and the actual process of creating as embodied in the selected artists. Boorstin's companion work The Discoverers will need to wait some more time until I am of the frame of mind to follow his thesis and development of scientific and mathematical thought.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth Sumoza

    Boorstin takes a look at history and human consciousness through different mediums of artistic expression such as storytelling, physical arts, music, and theater. While this is an extremely helpful resource, as his attempt at fitting as much information as possible about the entirety of human experience in only about 740 pages is a great one, I do have some issues with the way that Boorstin talks about some of his findings. His approach to talking about the beliefs of different cultures in the v Boorstin takes a look at history and human consciousness through different mediums of artistic expression such as storytelling, physical arts, music, and theater. While this is an extremely helpful resource, as his attempt at fitting as much information as possible about the entirety of human experience in only about 740 pages is a great one, I do have some issues with the way that Boorstin talks about some of his findings. His approach to talking about the beliefs of different cultures in the very first chapters of the book made me slightly uncomfortable, as did what very little he wrote about women. This is a fantastic text to use for research or for scratching the surface of the way we have expressed ourselves throughout time, but it should not be the only text you use for that information. Some of what Boorstin describes should be taken with a grain of salt, as his personal biases sometimes shine through.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Rugge

    I've realized that I'm never going to finish this book. This is not because of the quality of the research or the prose; instead it is just that I prefer a survey of technology history (See Boorstin's The Discoverers, which was quite good) over a survey of cultural history. This book also has a failing specific to its subject: there are very few pictures or illustrations of concepts or of specific works. So, when I read about Japanese architecture vs Western architecture, I had to look for pictu I've realized that I'm never going to finish this book. This is not because of the quality of the research or the prose; instead it is just that I prefer a survey of technology history (See Boorstin's The Discoverers, which was quite good) over a survey of cultural history. This book also has a failing specific to its subject: there are very few pictures or illustrations of concepts or of specific works. So, when I read about Japanese architecture vs Western architecture, I had to look for pictures on Wikipedia to understand what Boorstin was trying to convey through words about horizontal vs vertical design. This happens throughout the book, and is probably the reason it is so lengthy. After all, as they say: "A picture is worth a thousand words."

  19. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Barry

    A nice meaty read about the history of creators. This book is a celebration of the positive and told in a way that makes history come to life. I found it enjoyable, although I liked his Discoverers better. Still a fine read and it can be read as leisurely as you wish, as any stroll through history should.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mark Greenbaum

    Like The Discoverers, an absolutely epic journey -- after three months, I'm actually tired. After awe, the most pervasive feeling after finishing Boorstin is kind of a sadness, sadness that you could spend 50 years studying just one one chapter, one great figure of western civilization, and that none of us will ever be able to explore much more in the single lifetime each of us are gifted. Like The Discoverers, an absolutely epic journey -- after three months, I'm actually tired. After awe, the most pervasive feeling after finishing Boorstin is kind of a sadness, sadness that you could spend 50 years studying just one one chapter, one great figure of western civilization, and that none of us will ever be able to explore much more in the single lifetime each of us are gifted.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Was given to me as a gift. It's basically a book with mini-bios of so many different people of different talents. Was more fascinated with the ancient architecture part of the book. Took forever because of disruptions from life during the holidays. Was given to me as a gift. It's basically a book with mini-bios of so many different people of different talents. Was more fascinated with the ancient architecture part of the book. Took forever because of disruptions from life during the holidays.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elkaza

    Once again, learnt so much from it, and enjoyed how it was a simple read for such a comples topic

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian Vargo

    Meh. I thought it was going to be about something else. It wasn't. Meh. I thought it was going to be about something else. It wasn't.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    Loved this book!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sean Murphy

    Love this trilogy. An oldie but goodie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ron Dorn

    mccall bool

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    "The Creators" is a masterpiece. The book is a collection of 70 different biographical essays, each of which focuses on a particular author, artist, composer, architect or sculptor. Some of the earlier chapters focus on some aspect of man's desire or ability to create, rather than on one individual. The book as a whole is structured chronologically only in a rough sense, grouping the chapters to match the development of man's ability to create. Given that each chapter focuses on a single histori "The Creators" is a masterpiece. The book is a collection of 70 different biographical essays, each of which focuses on a particular author, artist, composer, architect or sculptor. Some of the earlier chapters focus on some aspect of man's desire or ability to create, rather than on one individual. The book as a whole is structured chronologically only in a rough sense, grouping the chapters to match the development of man's ability to create. Given that each chapter focuses on a single historical figure or movement, they could stand on their own as independent essays, each very readable and interesting. Taken together, Boorstin gives us a History of Art that is unbelievably rich and incredibly broad in its scope. Even better, the content is highly readable. Here's just a small sample of some of the topics covered: - Confucius (Tao = Man is not a Creator) - Homer - began telling the human story as an adventure - St. Augustine - first view of Man as Creator - Pyramids - Greek Architecture - Roman invention of concrete - Pantheon - Japanese architecture in wood - Greek statues - Greek Drama - First polyphony, in Christian music - Gothic architecture - Chaucer - Shakespeare - Gibbon - Dickens - Giotto - Brunelleschi - Leonardo da Vinci - Michelangelo - Chinese Taoist painting - Bach - Beethoven - Verdi, Wagner - Isadora Duncan (Dance) - Monet and Impressionism - Birth of Photography - Skyscrapers - Benjamin Franklin - Goethe - Wordsworth - Melville - Virginia Woolf - [many more]..

  28. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    Boorstin's book is a gem for reading about inspirational lives. As he did in The Discoverers he ranges throughout history focusing on lives of individual geniuses. In this case the imaginative heroes who contributed to our civilization through spiritual, artistic, music, literary imagination and more. The breadth of the book is literally breathtaking and it is valuable as a bedside read or a reference work. I personally find inspiration in books like this for further study of artists with whom I Boorstin's book is a gem for reading about inspirational lives. As he did in The Discoverers he ranges throughout history focusing on lives of individual geniuses. In this case the imaginative heroes who contributed to our civilization through spiritual, artistic, music, literary imagination and more. The breadth of the book is literally breathtaking and it is valuable as a bedside read or a reference work. I personally find inspiration in books like this for further study of artists with whom I am unfamiliar. Boorstin, however, is possible to read and enjoy for his own imaginative flair.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Patrick

    Amazon review: Historian Daniel J. Boorstin brings his customary depth and range to this compelling book on Western art, taking on everything from European megaliths (Stonehenge, for example) to Benjamin Franklin's autobiography ("the first American addition to world literature"). Boorstin does not aim at being comprehensive--he much prefers to linger over certain "heroes of the imagination" as he surveys human accomplishment in the fields of architecture, music, painting, sculpting, and writing- Amazon review: Historian Daniel J. Boorstin brings his customary depth and range to this compelling book on Western art, taking on everything from European megaliths (Stonehenge, for example) to Benjamin Franklin's autobiography ("the first American addition to world literature"). Boorstin does not aim at being comprehensive--he much prefers to linger over certain "heroes of the imagination" as he surveys human accomplishment in the fields of architecture, music, painting, sculpting, and writing--yet The Creators certainly feels comprehensive, as Boorstin carefully places everything he describes within a grand tradition of aesthetic achievement.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Literally the history of human creation from Egypt to the post-modern period. The scope, detail and depth of Boorstin's work combined with its readability make this a must read for any student of history. No matter how much you think you know about art, drama, music and literature I guarantee you will learn more for having read this extraordinary book. Even the figures I thought I knew well (Dickens, Dante, Eliot, Beethoven) were revealed in much more detail here. It's a huge book, and you will Literally the history of human creation from Egypt to the post-modern period. The scope, detail and depth of Boorstin's work combined with its readability make this a must read for any student of history. No matter how much you think you know about art, drama, music and literature I guarantee you will learn more for having read this extraordinary book. Even the figures I thought I knew well (Dickens, Dante, Eliot, Beethoven) were revealed in much more detail here. It's a huge book, and you will be busy for months but you enjoy it!

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