Synopses & Reviews
Santos-Dumont as the man who had conquered the air. He played to the crowds by barhopping in a little dirigible that he tied to lampposts. In Paris and London, his dapper countenance stared out from cigar boxes, matchbooks and dinner plates, and fashion designers did a brisk business with replicas of his trademark panama hat and stiff, turned-up ???Santos-Dumont??? collars. New York and London tabloids sent correspondents to Paris to file daily reports on his every move. Why, they wondered, wasn???t he comfortable with women? Just what was his relationship with George Goursat, the famous French caricaturist known as SEM, who sketched Santos-Dumont for the walls of numerous bistros? The last twenty-five years of Santos-Dumont??'s life were marked by melancholy and madness.& nbsp; A committed pacifist, when he learned that zeppelins and airplanes were dropping bombs in World War I, he blamed himself for inventing such crafts. Throughout the 1920s, he checked himself in and out of sanitariums in Switzerland and France. He returned to his native Brazil in 1928, and was greeted by twelve of the country??'s top scientists boarded a hydroplane and flew out to greet him. As the vessel dipped to bombard him with balloons and confetti, it suddenly plunged and exploded in midair, killing everyone on board. Needless to say, this event set back Santos-Dumont??'s recovery (and Brazilian science itself). When civil war broke out in 1932, he took his own life by hanging himself with a necktie. When word of his death reached his fellow countrymen, they called a three-day truce in the war.
"[Hoffman's] compassionate and colorful account . . . is likely to stand as the definitive biography of this . . . aeronautical pioneer." (San Francisco Chronicle)
"Thorough and impressive . . . stylish and well-paced." (Los Angeles Times)
"A compelling and touching account." (Christian Science Monitor)
"As Hoffman so brilliantly tells the story . . . Santos-Dumot truly was a man like few others . . . a delight." (Simon Winchester, New York Times)
Now in paperback, an "unforgettably good book [told] with compassion and sympathy" (Simon Winchester, New York Times) about an eccentric aviator and the thrilling early days of flight.
From Paul Hoffman, the acclaimed author of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers, comes this engaging true story of the man who was once hailed worldwide as the conqueror of the air--Alberto Santos-Dumont. Because the Wright brothers worked in secrecy, word of their first flights had not reached Europe when Santos-Dumont took to the skies in 1906. The dashing and impeccably dressed aeronaut stunned and delighted Paris, barhopping around the city in a one-man dirigible he invented, circling above crowds and crashing into rooftops.
Yet Santos-Dumont was a frenzied genius tortured by the weight of his own creation. Wings of Madness is a riveting, brilliantly told story of this tormented man who helped to usher in the modern age and who epitomized the increasingly tortured spirit of the twentieth century--it is elegant, fascinating, and deeply moving.
About the Author
Paul Hoffman was president of Encyclopedia Britannica and editor-in-chief of Discover. and is the author of The Man Who Loved Only Numbers and The Wings of Madness. He is the winner of the first National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, and his work has appeared in the New Yorker, Time, and Atlantic Monthly. He lives in Woodstock, NY.