Grayling’s process in creating this book (and it’s notable that the front cover describes it as being “made” rather than written) was – and I quote – “made in just the same way as the Judaeo-Christian Bible was made: by redaction, editing, paraphrasing, interpolation, arrangement and rewriting of texts from the last three thousand years of the great secular traditions.” Because it’s not plagiarism if its out of copyright, right?
Leaving aside what a great idea that wasn’t, the end results of this process are nowhere more evident than in the Book of Sages. The Sages are not named anywhere in the book, which chooses to place all the distilled wisdom of the ages in the mouth of someone identified only as “the master”. So the words of, say Marcus Aurelius and Leo Tze are placed in the same mouth, and don’t always work well together. Of course, Grayling’s terrifying tone deafness to how godawful his prose is doesn’t make things go any smoother. As always, the good ideas are lost in a mess of poorly composed sentences.