James Burke, author and public television star, returns with another quirky look at the way history works. In Twin Tracks
, Burke connects "trigger events" with unexpected outcomes. For instance, the invention of the lens-grinding lathe leads to hairdressing, and the debut of Mozart
's The Marriage of Figaro
connects to development of the stealth fighter jet. These events are tied together via two tracks, one written along the book's left-hand pages, and one along the right. The narratives meet up in the end, giving readers a clear idea that the lines of history can be quite subjective. Some of the examples even run backward, as when Burke explains the connections between smallpox and the Big Bang. While Burke is justifiably famous for linking historical events, the paths he takes, especially those involving lots of unfamiliar names, can be tricky to follow: In 1710 the art collection was sold to Philip, regent of France, in a deal brokered by Benedetto Luti, the best painter in Rome at the time.... That year Luti took on an assistant.... By 1714 William Kent was painting originals.... His patron in all this was the trillionaire Earl of Burlington. The best way to read Twin Tracks
, as with any of Burke's lovely books, is one chapter at a time, taking thinking breaks in between so as not to become overwhelmed by detail. The networks he describes form a more accurate, if more challenging, picture of history's motion than any linear sequence. --Therese Littleton
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Burke is back with another volume of the surprising and frequently serendipitous connections among the seemingly unconnected people, events and discoveries that have shaped our modern world. His work, which by this point comprises a genre in itself (including such titles as The Knowledge Web and The Pinball Effect), meanders through the history of science, medicine and technology, playing an intellectual history version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. His motto: "Everything is connected." As in earlier books, Burke tweaks the form a bit, this time offering 25 pairs of parallel narratives; each pair starts with one "trigger event," then they diverge and reconverge at the end (hence the book's title). Want to know how the Boston Tea Party led to the development of contact lenses, or The Marriage of Figaro to the F-117A stealth fighter? Burke can tell you, following two simultaneous threads that careen off in wildly different directions from the "trigger event," then create the conditions for the end result. One could complain that his connections are sometimes tenuous at best, more synchronicity than cause-and-effect, but that would miss the point-the real fun is in Burke's dry wit and his sheer exuberance as he takes us through centuries of history in mere pages, only to pick a new starting point and do it all over again. B&w illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.