Book Review: Inventing the World: Venice and the Transformation of Western Civilization by Meredith F. Small (three stars)
‘Many of these Venetian firsts were still with us, part of the fundamentals of Western culture, how we think and how we operate.’
Disappointing. Want to like this book because I agree with its premise. Too much padding, too many opinions disguised as fact, awkward presentation.
‘Today we anthropologists call that cultural indoctrination a belief system.’
Belongs on the same shelf as How the Irish saved Civilization and How the Scots Invented the Modern World. Simply reading Wikipedia supports Small’s major argument. Much of the rest is hyperbole and fluff; entertaining but didactic.
‘According to Marx, capitalism contains within it the “seeds of its own destruction” as the rich overreach, consolidate their power and grip, and choke off their own economic growth. Venice was, in fact, a prime example of Marx’s philosophy.’
Cynical, socialist take on capitalism, innovation, and property rights. Skip the first chapter; you’ll read her opinions on creativity and humanism many more times. Uses statistics to inflate, not to inform.
‘Today there are 6.5 million people in Italy.’ (more like 65 million), ‘As imaginary, as we do today as we do with online transfers.’ (huh?), ‘This book is not just for Venetofiles.’ (ph, not f), ‘they perfected the thermometer” (invented), ‘When John Quincy Adams … as he helped give birth to the United States.” (John, not John Quincy, his son), ‘The city of Trieste, north of Venice’ (east), ‘Some doctors proscribed electrotherapy’ (prescribed?).
Needs another proof reading. Many errors of history, geography, and grammar. Reads as if translated from a foreign language. Awkward verb choices knock the reader out of the narrative trying to decipher the meaning. Many foreign phrases not translated.
‘Ironically, this city is the father of capitalism, yet it feels like end-stage capitalism now.’