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Olivia Waite is a romance author, practicing feminist, and wide-ranging dilettante.

DNF: Virulent thesaurusism.

The Dark Side of the Enlightenment: Wizards, Alchemists, and Spiritual Seekers in the Age of Reason - John V Fleming

I will forgive many an obscure word, especially in a history, and especially if they're really good or useful or interesting words. But you have to use those antique gems carefully. I made it past the introduction and into the first chapter of this book, but then the author started a new section with this sentence (quoting from memory): "The English Restoration was mostly irenic."


And I have never seen the word irenic before, but I was a classics major and can extrapolate. And I don't think I've ever been more revolted by word choice in all my years reading history. It's like someone took a diamond and set it in Play-Doh: a total mismatch of style. The first half, so plain! That ending word, so fancy! It was jarring, galling. 


Part of the reason we have history instead of just reading primary sources all the time is to enjoy the exercise of someone else's keen intuition and judgment. When David McCullough distills years' worth of reading into a chapter on the siege of 19th-century Paris, I sit up and pay attention. But this one small, overlooked sentence caused me to doubt the author's judgment in even trifling matters. 


If I can't trust him in the details, how can I trust him in the broad strokes?