Saturday, January 1, 2011


When I was in high school, I read aloud to a blind teacher before classes began. It was like having a private tutor introducing me to the classics of Western Civilization. One of my favorite readings was Montaigne’s essays and he inspired essay writing that I have done since 1997 as a series of 300 Life Lines columns in North shore Long Island newspapers. I used a gift card Nedra gave me for Christmas and purchased Sarah Bakewell’s "How to Live or a Biography of Montaigne". In it she describes about 20 different ways Montaigne tried to answer that challenge using quotes from his essays and providing a historian’s background to his life and times. It is a thrill to read and she brings out the personal charm of Montaigne’s life. He was unpretentious, knew his limits, had enormous empathy for others, and managed to survive in one of the most difficult times in French history as the Reformation led to bloody civil wars between Protestant Huguenots and counter-Reformation Catholics.

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