MY WORKS AND DAYS: A Personal Chronicle by Lewis Mumford

MY WORKS AND DAYS: A Personal Chronicle

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My Works and Days but not, just yet, his life. Rather, the multifarious writer offers essays, letters, a dialogue from the Twenties, a 1972 address, and, especially, random notes: representations ""of a mind in the making,"" subjectively grouped, broadly introduced, only cumulatively chronological. But, to those who know his work, the crazy-quilt yields patterns. Mumford, born in 1895, yearns at 19 for early sixth century, albeit pre-Socratic, Athens . . . ""But then I might have been Socrates."" He will insist on the role of Philosopher/Generalist, on the right to gather ""eggs from many intellectual baskets"" in the face, for one, of Patrick' Geddes' wish to make him a full-time disciple. (""How much one could get out of him if he did not try to give so much!"") But he will also defend the ""combination of personality and individuality with impersonality and collective research"" in Technics and Civilization and The Culture of Cities against Van Wyck Brooks' suggestion that he return to the ""moral philosophers"" as models. And, after limning the life of Melville, he will uphold--in one of the major literary essays here--the modern biographer's task of giving weight to ""stray bits of evidence,"" to the social milieu, and, unfashionably, to the mask: ""as important an aspect of a life as the more devious tendencies it conceals."" The writing of Melville's life was a watershed in his own, prompting a crisis resolved by a love affair, his sexual coming-of-age after ten years of marriage, that freed him for his large integrative works. It also occasions some glimpses of intellectual crossfire that, were there more, would quicken an often sluggish volume. Similarly, early recollections of life at New York's Stuyvesant High School--its strenuously academic, street-wise Jewish boys ""a little overwhelming . . . for one who had lived a more pallid existence""--makes one wish for more particulars throughout (to be provided, Mumford says, in his forthcoming Autobiography), This volume, indeed, resembles the Miscellany he projected earlier. Still, complexity has been the dominant motif of his life, and, Mumford will have it, ""Life Is Better than Utopia.

Pub Date: Jan. 9th, 1978
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich