Book Review: Building a Bridge to the 18th Century (1999)

How the past can improve our future
by Neil Postman
1999, First Vintage Books, 193 pages

Building_a_BridgeNeil Postman, longtime professor and eventual chair of the department of culture and communication at New York University, sadly died in 2003 at the age of 72.  Bridge is his final book, and it deals with the same universal themes found in his earlier 20-odd works: language, reason, education, childhood, and the idea of progress. [I also want to state that this book, as so many others, I decided to read and review thanks to reference from my dear mother, who was always in her own orbit politically and managed, eventually, with works such as these, to liberate my literal cause-orientation from its familiar strait jackets.]

Despairing over post-modernists who claim words don’t stand for anything real, he makes a case for reading and writing. Indeed, he feels if we don’t come up with a meaningful narrative for our world, we’re toast.

It is no accident, Postman is a huge fan of the two Thomases: Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, particularly Paine.

Note: Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense and The CrisisCommon Sense sold as many as 600,000 copies, which would be equivalent to a run of 60 million copies in the United States today. Continue reading