Retail pak HighBridge Audio 2001
CS ISBN 1879557150 $17.95 Two cassettes
CD ISBN 1565115198 $22.95 Two CDs
[Editor's Note: The following is a combined review with THEORIES OF THE UNIVERSE, RELATIVITY, and MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH.]--The Listen to a Genius series is a collection of CD reissues of recordings made by Audio Scholar in the 1990s. The idea--to present a cross section of writings by the world's greatest thinkers--is admirable. But while the production quality and narration are generally excellent, the series has some problems. First, the complete absence of liner notes is a disappointment. More importantly, the abridgments of these great works are often so drastic that they fail to provide a coherent introduction to the author's work. In his preface to RELATIVITY, for example, Einstein writes that his book requires "a fair amount of patience and force of will on the part of the reader." Indeed, a work of this complexity would have a reader continually rereading, something that is impractical in the audio medium. As a result, this recording will likely appeal only to those with a solid background in physics or mathematics, despite Einstein's remarkably lucid prose and the unflinching Julian Lopez-Morillas, who delivers it with clarity. Similar flaws bog down THEORIES OF THE UNIVERSE, also read by Lopez-Morillas. Though Stephen Hawking gets top billing, he is the author of only one of the four selections in this recording. His contribution, like his famous book A BRIEF HISTORY OF TIME (millions sold, perhaps hundreds read and understood), has fascinating and memorable passages but is altogether impenetrable to the non-physicist. The high point of the recording, rather, is Paul Thagard's "Conceptual Revolutions," an erudite but accessible look at the major leaps in scientific thought. Bertrand Russell's RELIGION AND SCIENCE is much easier to digest. Published in 1935, it looks at the conflicts between these two integral parts of human culture. The writing is clear, and the abridgment, while it retains only a fraction of the original work, is tidy if not seamless. David Case sounds pedantic at first, but once listeners warm to him, they'll be happy to have exchanged Einstein's quantum physics for this introduction to Russell's metaphysics. Mohandas Gandhi's MY EXPERIMENTS WITH TRUTH (1925) is an altogether different kind of philosophy. Frederick Davidson has chosen to read this autobiography of India's great spiritual leader with an affected accent, an odd choice in a work of nonfiction. But it works: It helps to ground a rambling piece of writing, helping this title to come closest to fulfilling the aim of the Listen to a Genius series. D.B. (c) AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine [Published: JUN/JUL 02]
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