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Book: Human Accomplishment Author: Charles Murray Price: HarperCollins, ?16.35

There is something wrong with Charles Murray’s huge book on the history of human intellectual achievement. It is not its ambition, which is admirable, nor the writing, which is mostly clear and lucid. It is not even the book’s arguments, which although predictable are at times stimulating. But there is, running right through this book, a set of misconceptions about art and criticism which render the whole project almost completely worthless.

The book is actually two books in one. It starts out with a thoroughly readable history of human civilisation from…

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