Books: Welcome to Hard Times

A DISTANT MIRROR: THE CALAMITOUS 14TH CENTURY by Barbara W. Tuchman; Knopf; 677 pages; $15.95

This is a book of marvels, a gawker's book. It is also a thoughtful, finely illuminated book of historical narrative, but what it relates is so bizarre that judicious appreciation is not a likely first reaction. The reader is a village child at a crossroads fair: a bear dances, an acrobat does a backflip without spilling his wine glass and the child's mouth hangs open.

Here are some other sideshows from 14th century Europe, as presented by Author Barbara...

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