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Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Lifeby Adam Gopnik
Synopses & Reviews
The middleweight champion of the early twentieth century, Stanley Ketchel] was stunned by Wilson] Mizner's recitation of the Langdon Smith classic that starts When you were a tadpole and I was a fish, In the Palaeozoic time and follows the romance of two lovers from one geological age to another, until they wind up in Delmonico's. Ketchel had a thousand questions about the tadpole and the fish, and Mizner, a pedagogue at heart, took immense pleasure in wedging the whole theory of evolution into the fighter's untutored head. Ketchel became silent and thoughtful. He declined an invitation to see the town that night with Mizner and Willus] Britt. When they rolled in at 5 a.m., Ketchel was sitting up with his eyes glued on a bowl of goldfish. That evolution is all the bunk he shouted angrily,I've beenwatching those fish nine hours and they haven’t changed a bit.Mizner had to talk fast; one thing Ketchel couldn’t bear was to have anybody cross him.
-Alva Johnston, The Legendary Mizners
Americans seemed to fascinate Picasso. Once, in Paris, he invited the Murphys to his apartment, on the Rue de la Boëeuml;tie, for an apéeacute;ritif, and, after showing them through the place, in every room of which were pictures in various stages of completion, he led Gerald rather ceremoniously to an alcove that contained a tall cardboard box. It was full of illustrations, photographs, engravings, and reproductions clipped from newspapers. All of them dealt with a single person-Abraham Lincoln. ‘I've been collecting them since I was a child, ' Picasso said, ‘I have thousands, thousands ’ He held up one of Brady’s photographs of Lincoln, and said with great feeling, ‘There is the real American elegance '
-Calvin Tomkins, Living Well Is the Best Revenge
We are all pebbles dropped in the sea of history, where the splash strikes one way and the big tides run another, and though what we feel is the splash, the splash takes place only within those tides. In almost every case, the incoming current drowns the splash; once in a while the drop of the pebble changes the way the ocean runs. On February 12, 1809, two baby boys were born within a few hours of each other on either side of the Atlantic. One entered life in a comfortable family home, nicely called the Mount, that still stands in the leafy English countryside of Shrewsbury, Shropshire; the other opened his eyes for the first time in a nameless long- lost log cabin in the Kentucky woods. Charles Darwin was the fifth of six children, born into comfort but to a family that was far from safe, with a long history of freethinking and radical beliefs. He came into a world of learning and money-one grandfather, Josiah Wedgwood, had made a fortune in ceramic plates. Abraham Lincoln was the second of three, born to a dirt- poor farmer, Thomas Lincoln, who, when he wrote his name at all, wrote it (his son recalled) bunglingly.
Their narrow circles of immediate experience were held inside that bigger ocean of outlying beliefs and assumptions. In any era, there are truths that people take as obvious, stories that they think are weird or wrong, and dreams that they believe are distant or doomed. (We like stories about time travel and living robots, and even have some speculative thoughts about how they might be made to happen. But on the whole we belie
In this bicentennial twin portrait of Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin, Gopnik shows how these two giants altered the way people think about death and time--about the very nature of earthly existence.
In this captivating double life, Adam Gopnik searches for the men behind the icons of emancipation and evolution. Born by cosmic coincidence on the same day in 1809 and separated by an ocean, Lincoln and Darwincoauthored our sense of history and our understanding of man's place in the world. Here Gopnik reveals these two men as they really were: family men and social climbers, ambitious manipulators and courageousadventurers, grieving parents and brilliant scholars. Above all we see them as thinkers and writers, making and witnessing the great changes in thought that mark truly moderntimes.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
Adam Gopnik is the author of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children’s Gate and is a contributor to The New Yorker. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.
Table of Contents
Angels & ages — Lincoln's mind — Darwin's eye — Lincoln in history — Darwin in time — Ages & angels.
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