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richardderus

Expendable Mudge Muses Aloud

A World Lit Only by Fire - William Raymond Manchester My daughter brought this book to my attention about 10 years ago. "WHAT?!? You haven't read this?!? Here!" with a forceful thrust, causing the book to thump into my chest rather painfully. (The bruises have since healed.) Since that copy, I have given to others eleven more; I seem to be able to keep the book for about six months before someone just *has* to read it and *now*, so out it goes again. Weeks go by, and I fretfully search the used bookeries for another copy; always one shows up, usually in very good to unread condition (philistines! Imagine having this book and not reading it!), and spend the buck or so to bring it home *for the last time* as I will keep *this* one forever.Uh-huh. As we see, that resolve is doomed. I'm sending this one to that soldier who wanted history books. He'll like this one, I bet!It's a leap of imagination that I feel 21st-century people have small success at making, but the time when the world was lit only by fire didn't end until late in the 19th century. No flipping switches for instant light. No reading lamp that just needs a little flick to provide bright, shadowless (unless you sited it in a funny place) light for as long as you like. No street illumination worth a damn.A world of shadows. A world of unseen details. A world that gave us fabulous artistic achievements, amazing literary joys, and most of our modern ideas about religion, which I for one could do without.Manchester makes this world shimmer into focus, bronze-gold candleflame coloring each and every idea, achievement, material object he describes. We really see what he's talking about through their eyes, if we possess even a hint of imagination.I love this book, and I think everyone in the least bit interested in history should read it because it's beautifully written and conceived. It's a pleasure to pass it on to another initiate. I hope he falls in love the way I did. Please try it. It's worth your time to sink without a ripple into a world long vanished.