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Shlain admits that he is taking an extreme position, but many readers will forgive him because he has written an...

An enthusiastic mixture of history, neuroscience and pop psychology that aims to explain the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).

In this study of the great polymath, surgeon and best-selling author Shlain (Sex, Time, and Power: How Women’s Sexuality Shaped Evolution, 2003), who died in 2009, stresses that his subject’s painting skills quickly made him famous, although he also earned a living as a sculptor, architect and military engineer. Obsessively curious, da Vinci’s thoughts on science, engineering, inventions, anatomy and art take up 13,000 pages of prose, plans and drawings. According to Shlain, da Vinci anticipated Newton’s laws, Descartes’ analytic geometry, Darwin’s view of species and Rayleigh’s explanation of why the sky is blue. His fascination with the human body produced celebrated anatomical illustrations, including the first accurate descriptions of structures in the heart, eye and brain. Shlain has no doubt that he invented the submarine, parachute, helicopter, bicycle, ball bearing, canal lock, metal screw and innumerable other labor-saving machines that anticipated the Industrial Revolution. Sadly, almost all these achievements were confined to his journals, which were not published during his lifetime. The mind of such an extraordinary man must also be extraordinary, Shlain writes, and he proceeds to deliver a fine overview of brain function and the psychology of creativity—although his belief that the brain has a rational side (the left) and a spiritual side (the right) is considered a vast oversimplification by scientists who are also skeptical of extrasensory perception, which the author feels explains many of Leonardo’s amazing insights.

Shlain admits that he is taking an extreme position, but many readers will forgive him because he has written an entertaining mixture of facts and speculation on one of history’s immortals.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1493003358

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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