Synopses & Reviews
The Fascinating Story of Our Emergence from Dark and How We Came to Inhabit Our World Built of Light
“It takes a special turn of mind to even think of writing a history of artificial light. But Jane Brox takes this curious, thin slice of history and makes of it a dazzling epic.” — Lev Grossman, Time, “Top 10 Everything of 2010”
“Ruminative and curious, Brox excels at discussing the cultural and psychological changes wrought by more and better light . . . An intriguing investigation of a state of being — well lighted — that we take utterly for granted.”— New York Times Book Review
Five hundred years ago almost everyone lived at the mercy of the night. Today, life as we know it — long evening hours and our feeling of safety — depends upon cheap, abundant light. In Brilliant, award-winning author Jane Brox offers a sweeping history of our relationship with light, from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to the LEDs of the future. In this compelling story — imbued with human voices and startling insights — Brox also raises timely questions about how the light to come will shape our lives, and ultimately reveals that as we have changed light, light has also changed us.
“Brox succeeds brilliantly thanks to writing that rivals her subject in sparkle, glow, and wattage.” — Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind
JANE BROX is the author of Clearing Land, Five Thousand Days Like This One, a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Here and Nowhere Else, which received the L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. She lives in Maine. Visit www. janebrox.com.
, reminiscent of Lewis Hydes The Gift
in its reach and of Timothy Egans The Worst Hard Time
in its haunting evocation of human lives, offers a sweeping view of a surprisingly revealing aspect of human history—from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to the LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future.
Brox plumbs the class implications of light—who had it, who didnt—through the many centuries when crude lamps and tallow candles constricted waking hours. She convincingly portrays the hell-bent pursuit of whale oil as the first time the human desire for light thrust us toward an environmental tipping point. Only decades later, gas street lights opened up the evening hours to leisure, which changed the ways we live and sleep and the worlds ecosystems.
Edisons “tiny strip of paper that a breath would blow away” produced a light that seemed to its users all but divorced from human effort or cost. And yet, as Broxs informative and hair-raising portrait of our current grid system shows, the cost is ever with us.
Brilliant is infused with human voices, startling insights, and—only a few years before it becomes illegal to sell most incandescent light bulbs in the United States—timely questions about how our future lives will be shaped by light.
, award-winning author Jane Brox offers a sweeping history of our transformative relationship with light—from the stone lamps of the Pleistocene to LEDs embedded in fabrics of the future—and reveals that the surprising, complex story of our illumination is also the story of our modern selves.
Just five hundred years ago almost everyone lived at the mercy of the dark, yet today so much of life as we know it—our long evening hours, our flexible working days, our feelings of safety at night—depends upon cheap, abundant light. Brox not only examines the social and environmental implications of this remarkable transformation, she tells a compelling story imbued with human voices, startling insights, and timely questions about how the light of the future will shape our lives.
The dust storms that terrorized the High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since.
Timothy Eganand#8217;s critically acclaimed account rescues this iconic chapter of American history from the shadows in a tour de force of historical reportage. Following a dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, Egan tells of their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black dust blizzards, crop failure, and the death of loved ones. Brilliantly capturing the terrifying drama of catastrophe, Egan does equal justice to the human characters who become his heroes, and#147;the stoic, long-suffering men and women whose lives he opens up with urgency and respectand#8221; (New York Times).
In an era that promises ever-greater natural disasters, The Worst Hard Time is and#147;arguably the best nonfiction book yetand#8221; (Austin Statesman Journal) on the greatest environmental disaster ever to be visited upon our land and a powerful cautionary tale about the dangers of trifling with nature.
A sweeping history of the human use and invention of artifical light, exploring how changes in the technology of light have affected perceptions of the world and altered the possibilities for life in it.
"The Worst Hard Time is an epic story of blind hope and endurance almost beyond belief; it is also, as Tim Egan has told it, a riveting tale of bumptious charlatans, conmen, and tricksters, environmental arrogance and hubris, political chicanery, and a ruinous ignorance of nature's ways. Egan has reached across the generations and brought us the people who played out the drama in this devastated land, and uses their voices to tell the story as well as it could ever be told." and#151; Marq de Villiers, author of Water: The Fate of Our Most Precious Resource
The dust storms that terrorized America's High Plains in the darkest years of the Depression were like nothing ever seen before or since, and the stories of the people that held on have never been fully told. Pulitzer Prizeand#150;winning New York Times journalist and author Timothy Egan follows a half-dozen families and their communities through the rise and fall of the region, going from sod homes to new framed houses to huddling in basements with the windows sealed by damp sheets in a futile effort to keep the dust out. He follows their desperate attempts to carry on through blinding black blizzards, crop failure, and the deaths of loved ones. Drawing on the voices of those who stayed and survivedand#151;those who, now in their eighties and nineties, will soon carry their memories to the graveand#151;Egan tells a story of endurance and heroism against the backdrop of the Great Depression.
As only great history can, Egan's book captures the very voice of the times: its grit, pathos, and abiding courage. Combining the human drama of Isaac's Storm with the sweep of The American People in the Great Depression, The Worst Hard Time is a lasting and important work of American history.
Timothy Egan is a national enterprise reporter for the New York Times. He is the author of four books and the recipient of several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
and#147;As one who, as a young reporter, survived and reported on the great Dust Bowl disaster, I recommend this book as a dramatic, exciting, and accurate account of that incredible and deadly phenomenon. This is canand#8217;t-put-it-down history.and#8221; and#151;Walter Cronkite
"The Worst Hard Time is wonderful: ribbed like surf, and battering us with a national epic that ranks second only to the Revolution and the Civil War. Egan knows this and convincingly claims recognition for his subjectand#151;as we as a country finally accomplished, first with Lewis and Clark, and then for 'the greatest generation,' many of whose members of course were also survivors of the hardships of the Great Depression. This is a banner, heartfelt but informative book, full of energy, research, and compassion." and#151;Edward Hoagland, author of Compass Points: How I Lived
"Here's a terrific true storyand#151;who could put it down? Egan humanizes Dust Bowl history by telling the vivid stories of the families who stayed behind. One loves the people and admires Egan's vigor and sympathy." and#151;Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
"The American West got lucky when Tim Egan focused his acute powers of observation on its past and present. Egan's remarkable combination of clear analysis and warm empathy anchors his portrait of the women and men who held on to their placesand#151;and held on to their soulsand#151;through the nearly unimaginable miseries of the Dust Bowl. This book provides the finest mental exercise for people wanting to deepen, broaden, and strengthen their thinking about the relationship of human beings to this earth." and#151;Patricia N. Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
About the Author
TIMOTHY EGANandnbsp;is a Pulitzer Prizeandndash;winning reporter and the author ofandnbsp;seven books, most recentlyandnbsp;Short Nights of the Shawdow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis.andnbsp;His previous books include Theandnbsp;Worst Hard Time, which won a National Book Award and was named a New York Times Editorsandrsquo; Choice, andandnbsp;The Big Burn:andnbsp;Teddyandnbsp;Roosevelt and theandnbsp;Fire Thatandnbsp;Saved America, aandnbsp;New York Timesandnbsp;bestseller and winner of the Pacific Northwest Booksellersandnbsp;Award and the Washington State Book Award.andnbsp;Heandnbsp;is an online op-ed columnist for the New York Times, writing his andquot;Opinionatorandquot; feature once a week. He isandnbsp;a third-generation Westerner andandnbsp;lives in Seattle.
Table of Contents
Introduction: Live Through This 1
I and#149; PROMISE: The Great Plowup, 1901and#150;1930
1. The Wanderer 13 2. No Manand#8217;s Land 32 3. Creating Dalhart 52 4. High Plains Deutsch 59 5. Last of the Great Plowup 73
II and#149; BETRAYAL, 1931and#150;1933
6. First Wave 91 7. A Darkening 103 8. In a Dry Land 115 9. New Leader, New Deal 128 10. Big Blows 136
III and#149; BLOWUP, 1934and#150;1939
11. Triage 145 12. The Long Darkness 155 13. The Struggle for Air 171 14. Showdown in Dalhart 176 15. Dusterand#8217;s Eve 193 16. Black Sunday 198 17. A Call to Arms 222 18. Goings 236 19. Witnesses 242 20. The Saddest Land 254 21. Verdict 265 22. Cornhusker II 273 23. The Last Men 279 24. Cornhusker III 293 25. Rain 303
Epilogue 309 Notes and Sources 315 Acknowledgments 328 Index 331