Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Judge Others--And Prepare to be Judged

Despite being a crucial skill, very little has been written on the art of judging others--on how to become a good judge of character.

While art's main value is most definitely not bound up in providing explicit moral guidance or detailing specific information, I personally have learned a lot from different authors on this subject--and will be posting some quotes here along these lines.

Having just finished reading World Without End, here are three quotes from or about Edmund--one of the many great characters in the book:

1. "Any man who needs to surround himself with loyal acolytes doesn't really believe in himself, why should I?"

2. "I never trust anyone who proclaims his morality from the pulpit. That high-minded type can always find an excuse for breaking his own rules. I'd rather do business with an everyday sinner who thinks it's probably to his advantage, in the long run, to tell the truth and keep his promises. He's not likely to change his mind about that."

3. "Edmund had explained to Carris, many years ago, that although customers needed to believe they were buying from a successful business, they would resent contributing to the wealth of someone who appeared to be rolling in money."
I highly recommend this book by the way--not because you can learn a little bit about how to judge other people, but because it's a great story, one of the best ever written.

(I actually like it better than its much-acclaimed predecessor, The Pillars of the Earth, primarily because of how World Without End ends.)


  1. I absolutely love Pillars and World Without End. I consider them worthy of membership in the Western canon, and there are very very few recent books I would say that about. They are epic, in the way of Hugo or Dumas, and there characters are developed deeply like Austen.

  2. Umm, I meant their characters. Jane Austen would be taken aback at being put in a sentence with a grammar mistake!!

  3. Agreed! I had read A Place Called Freedom a long time ago but never made it around to reading Pillars until a friend gave me the book.

    The biggest reason was the same sort of resistance to reading books by modern authors that I think most of us (who have read good literature) go through at one point or another.

    In any case, I've been thinking about where the two books sit relative to all the other greats--and have to, like you, put them up there with Dumas and Austen and Hugo.

    I actually think The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End are better books than Les Miserables and Count of Monte Cristo.

    As a huge fan of both Hugo and Dumas that is of course no knock on them. But comparing Follett's world with Hugo's, for instance, the characters are better drawn, the plot is more tightly-woven--and both are much more realistic.

    Have you heard that Follett will be writing another book in this series? If it's as good as the previous two, and especially if it's set during the Renaissance--where the struggle seems to want to go naturally anyway--the three will deserve a place on the top shelf of literary accomplishments.

    Hopefully it doesn't take another 18 years though!