Picture Books and Intellectuals

Finished two widely different different books recently. One was Inside the Tour de France and it wasn’t very good. Mostly just pictures and very little info that one couldn’t get from Google, I’m sure. It really only took a few minutes to read.

The other book was fascinating. Paul Johnson (whose writings I am going to have to seek out since they seem to be so interesting) wrote a book called Intellectuals (and followed it up with Creators, which I’m reading now). It’s a study of various intellectuals since Rousseau, who Johnson considered the first intellectual. A simple working definition of intellectual that Johnson uses through his book is a person that considers ideas more important than people. And he examines not only the ideas of these various people to some extent, but also investigates to see if how they lived, both publicly and privately, reflected the ideas that they wanted all of mankind to accept. To a man, they all flunk horribly. Some of the intellectuals, like Sartre, I was already pretty well aware of their lives, ideas and hypocrisy, but others, like Tolstoy, came as a surprise to me. It’s quite an interesting, if somewhat depressing, book. An interesting fact that cropped up was that significant numbers of these intellectuals were filthy in a quite literal sense. Marx, Sartre and others listed rarely bathed and had disgusting habits and households. It made me wonder if there was some connection there.

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