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WHY TIME FLIES

A MOSTLY SCIENTIFIC INVESTIGATION

A highly illuminating intellectual investigation.

An insightful meditation on the curious nature of time by New Yorker staff writer Burdick (Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion, 2006).

As the author notes, his journey through this slippery subject began with his interest in the way time influences the functioning of our cells and cellular machinery rather than the “physical and mathematical aspects of time [that] continue to be debated by the great minds of cosmology.” He points to the contradiction between our search for precision in clocks and the reality that, by its very nature, our measurement of time is imprecise; it is a social construct rather than a measurable feature of reality as such. Not only does “no single clock, no single committee, no individual alone” regulate our unique, individual perception of time, but our individual internal clock is a collective activity of different regions of our brain. “Time is a social phenomenon,” writes Burdick, and we never directly perceive its passage. Because of this, we more easily develop an illusion of permanence that allows us to overlook long-term consequences of actions or inaction. Global warming is a case in point. Our failure to connect what the author calls “the world of temperature and the world of time” is particularly troubling—e.g., as it relates to the migration and breeding cycles of arctic birds. On a certain level, even our perception of an instant of time—the here and now—has become a social construct. The regulation of clock time was a local matter until the 19th century, when the development of commerce, industry, railroad, and telecommunications made a universal standard necessary. Burdick introduces another fascinating element into his meditation on our perception of the passage of time brought about by the advent of films. As he writes, “film and video have become the primary metaphor offered to explain, in popular terms, how the brain perceives time.”

A highly illuminating intellectual investigation.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4165-4027-4

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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