Enjoyable excavation of a time when science and art fed off each other, to the benefit of both communities.

THE AGE OF WONDER

Energetic analysis of the “Romantic Age of Science.”

Romanticism, the deeply emotional artistic movement of the second half of the 18th century, was partly a reaction against the pragmatism of Enlightenment scientists. However, British historian Holmes (Sidetracks: Explorations of a Romantic Biographer, 2000, etc.) writes, the divide between scientific endeavors and artistic pursuits was not always so clearly delineated. The author focuses primarily on the lives of two men who straddled both worlds, who embraced “Romantic science” and pursued it with the passion of poets or painters. Astronomer William Herschel, who discovered the planet Uranus in 1781, started his career as a musician. That led to an interest in mathematics and then astronomy, which he pursued with the same emotional fervor as any classical music piece. He even compared his skill at seeing astronomical phenomena with the skill required to play Handel’s fugues. Holmes also looks at the British chemist Humphry Davy, who, among other accomplishments, discovered that chlorine and iodine were elements. Early on, Davy wrote poetry, and later became friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. One of his poems celebrated “science, whose delicious water flows / From Nature’s bosom.” Davy’s enthusiasm led to risky, self-destructive behavior—he often inhaled strange chemical gases as experiments, a practice that nearly killed him. While partaking of nitrous oxide with acquaintances, he extolled the glories of science: “I dream of Science restoring to Nature what Luxury, what Civilization have stolen from her—pure hearts, the forms of angels, bosoms beautiful, and panting with Joy & Hope.” Davy may have had a brilliant scientist’s brain, but he had the heart and soul of a poet. How these two contradictory ideas not only coexisted, but flourished together during the Romantic era, makes for engrossing reading.

Enjoyable excavation of a time when science and art fed off each other, to the benefit of both communities.

Pub Date: July 14, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-42222-5

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

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

NIGHT

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

Did you like this book?

more