The 54 volumes were hawked door-to-door by frequently unscrupulous salesmen. The Federal Trade Commission twice sanctioned the project for deceptive sales practices (the salesmen’s preferred trick was to pass themselves off as University of Chicago professors). Beam recounts critic Michael Dirda’s memory of one such salesman arriving at his parents’ door: “He offered the kind of snake-oil enticements common to all door-to-door fast talkers. I admired his patter and remembered it, a few years later, when I took a job selling Fuller Brush products.” The sales pitch was strictly middlebrow mercantilism. “A problem?” asked an ad for the volumes. “Consult this evening with the greatest minds of the Western world, grasp their precious wisdom. Start reading immediately at the point of your own maximum interest.” Career stuck in a rut? “The ability to discuss and clarify basic ideas is vital to success. Doors open to the man who possesses this talent.” Bored on a Friday night? The Great Books are a “prime source of self-improvement and an exhaustible fund of adult entertainment . . . the best entertainment is that which elevates as it entertains.”__________ That's it for today. My son, Jack (12), was hospitalized with some sort of nasty infection/inflammation of the lining in his appendix/pelvis area. It turned my whole week on its head. The little guy seems to be mending, though, so the topsy-turviness is worth it.
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