Books by Alan Walker

Released: Oct. 16, 2018

"An absorbing biography unlikely to be surpassed anytime soon."
A sensitively discerning examination of a 19th-century superstar. Read full book review >
Released: April 24, 1996

Third and final hefty volume on the larger-than-life Romantic composer/pianist (preceded by Franz Liszt: The Virtuoso Years, 18111848, 1983, and Franz Liszt: The Weimar Years, 18481861, 1989). Anyone looking for a nonpartisan view of Liszt should check their hat at the door; this is a celebration of a man and his work, as thorough and complete as one could hope. It covers Liszt's declining years, so there are fewer achievements and more tragedy, including his thwarted marriage plans to the eccentric Princess Carolyne von Sayn-Wittgenstein; his decision to become a priest (much to the shock and amusement of those who recalled his younger years); and his steady decline into illness and blindness. Most upsetting was his daughter Cosima's decision to abandon her husband (the noted conductor Hans von BÅlow) and run off with the composer Richard Wagner. Liszt had been a mentor to both men in their early years and felt personally responsible for the tragedy. Liszt led a footloose existence, dividing his time between Italy (where he practiced his religious life), Weimar (where he continued to teach music), and his native Hungary. Walker is a die-hard Lisztomaniac, often apologizing for the composer's behavior and never encountering a piece of music he doesn't like. Was Liszt an alcoholic? Perhaps, Walker thinks, but alcohol seemed to impair ``neither his piano-playing nor his conversation.'' Did Liszt serve as a proper role model for his many students? Walker admits he may have introduced a few to the vices of cognac and cigars, and may even have been a little too friendly with the younger females. Was he an anti-Semite, as the scandalous 1881 revision of his work on Bohemian music seemed to imply? Walker blames this on the meddling hands of Princess Carolyne, freeing Liszt of this stain. Thorough, engaging, if slightly rose-colored account of the composer's later years. (15 b&w illustrations) Read full book review >
Released: March 31, 1996

``I am striving to see the human animal in the right perspective.'' So says paleoanthropologist Walker in the first person, although the text of this first-rate exposition was actually penned by Shipman, Walker's wife and colleague in Pennsylvania State University's anthropology department. The ``human animal'' in this case is the 1.5-million-year-old Nariokotome boy, unearthed by Walker near a sand river of the same name on the west side of Lake Turkana in Kenya. The discovery of an almost complete skeleton of Homo erectus, the hominid species presumed to have preceded us, was an extraordinary event. The painstaking analysis of the bones that followed involved collaborations with experts in nutrition, neuroscience, language, and behavior. From their findings and the distribution and dating of other erectus fossils, Walker concludes that populations of the species originated in Africa and were the first hominids to spread to other continents; that they were bipedal, social omnivores who could hunt and kill prey. Like us, their babies were born helpless, so that the head could fit through the narrowed pelvic opening needed for stable walking. This meant that infant care was essential and that the brain could continue to expand during the first year—if not much after that, apparently. The big surprise- -based on studying the markings that the brain surface leaves on the inside of the skull—was that H. erectus lacked language: Nariokotome boy was a ``large, strong, tall youth of 15 . . . with the brain of a toddler.'' Such a discovery raises a number of pressing questions—and may be challenged in the contentious field of paleoanthropology. Nevertheless, the care with which Walker and Shipman lay out the evidence and their theories may well win the day. And even if not, readers will be rewarded by a fine telling of the always fascinating story of where we came from. (8 pages photos, 13 illustrations, not seen) Read full book review >