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Bring up Isaac Newton in a conversation and you’ll probably hear the story of the apple. But the name and accomplishments of a person who influenced Newton’s work, Robert Boyle (1627–1691), are not as widely known. However, as his biography, Boyle: Between God and Science, suggests, Boyle was anything but forgettable during his lifetime. Regarded as one of the founders of modern chemistry, he devised the eponymous law of gases, which states that as the volume of a gas increases, its pressure decreases. Written by Boyle historian Michael Hunter, this book leaves no stone unturned. Drawing from Boyle’s vast body of writings, such as his letters and scientific papers, Hunter creates a very intimate portrait of the man and the turbulent century in which he lived. Hunter’s detailed account even includes a thorough portrait of Boyle’s father, a rather adventurous earl who sought out territory in Great Britain’s recently acquired colony of Northern Ireland, and the elder Boyle’s diary entry describing the birth of his famous son. Hunter not only captures the important dates and events in Boyle’s life, presented as objective fact, but he also digs deeper. He gives us a generous dosage of Boyle’s own words, (and his family’s own words), while tracing the footsteps of other writers who documented the legendary chemist’s life, as though actually observing many of the pivotal moments that made Boyle who he was. Hunter manages to relive these moments, such as Boyle’s first journey to boarding school in Eton in 1635, where we are given a full picture of the school dining hall and even the curriculum for sons of British noblemen in the 17th century. He points out what Boyle’s letters revealed about his thoughts on the topics of the day, first his education, and his interest in history, and then his decision to become a chevalier during the English Civil War, and most prominently, his attitudes on theology, which would become a lifelong interest. He not only writes on a person who lived, but presents us with a living man from a bygone century. We know that Newton, one of Boyle’s star pupils, had written more on the Bible during his lifetime than he had written on physics and gravitational theory. Boyle, who remained a devout follower of the Anglican Church throughout his life, was also intrigued by the existence of God, which he upheld as the impetus behind much of his contributions to chemistry and physics, to understand the mechanisms behind all creation, in order to ultimately understand God. For this reason, both he and Newton are often cited by Christian fundamentalists as prime examples of scientists who achieved greatness while also being creationists. Here’s an interesting question that a book with a title implying a contrast between God and science is likely to provoke: Would Boyle identify himself today with Christian apologists like Ken Ham or a foundation like the Discovery Institute? Or would he identify more along the lines of fellow chemist Pope Francis I, who recently urged his followers to accept modern science? Moreover, how would he feel about the emerging New Atheism movement with the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris? It’s always tempting, but often a disservice, to think of how a historical figure would fare in contemporary times, but in Boyle’s day, he feared the growing Deist movement that was popular amongst the intelligentsia, particularly with his opponent, political philosopher Thomas Hobbes. Boyle was particularly opposed to the idea that materialism could explain everything—a common talking point behind advocates of Intelligent Design at the Discovery Institute. In fact, Boyle seems to have believed in the complexity of the world as evidence of a creator—what would later be summarized as the “Watchmaker Analogy” by theologian William Paley, the go-to argument for most creationists. While it’s hardly a wonder that modern creationists identify with Boyle, Hunter is careful to emphasize Boyle’s method. He did his research at a time when there was no word for scientist—he was known alternately as a “chemist” and “natural philosopher,” and yet was an important figure in developing the scientific method. Rather than working to confirm his speculations, he sought at every turn to prove his ideas wrong. The laws he described in his books were the bare bones of what was left after his experiments were finished, the only thing that stood despite his continuous efforts to deconstruct them. Thus, Boyle was among the first people to understand the value of falsification in science, and he understood it at a time when alchemy was still thought to be a valid science. Although he may not necessarily have seen a divide between theology and chemistry, this makes Boyle much more of a skeptic than modern-day creationists. In addition to showing his pious side and his skills as a polymath—a fascination and ability to excel in both chemistry and physics, while also displaying an affinity for mechanical things (he developed an air pump)—the portrait of Boyle is not complete without showing his skeptic side. Hunter finishes with a scope of the legacy Boyle left behind, securing his place in the Royal Society, and emphasizing his importance for the scientific discoveries that would follow for centuries to come.

Bring up Isaac Newton in a conversation and you’ll probably hear the story of the apple. But the name and accomplishments of a person who influenced Newton’s work, Robert Boyle (1627–1691), are ...

What do a rogue elephant, a wild boar, and a shaven porcupine have in common? They all reflect facets of Karl Marx’s personality as described by British journalist Francis Wheen in Karl Marx: A Life, an entertaining biography of a man whose life story does not immediately appear to have had the potential for a lot of laughs. From the first skimming of the table of contents with its animal imagery in each chapter, it is clear that this is no ordinary biography. Not to say that it is anything less than well documented and well researched, but its humorous approach is unexpected in the life story of an often demonized social philosopher. As it turns out, however, the tone is perfect because Marx was a joker and word-player who reveled in constructing extravagant insults, as well as a heavy drinker and smoker who was happy to gossip about everyone he knew. It is amazing that Marx managed to write as much as he did, since his personal life was often in turmoil. He was always scrounging for money and depended heavily on Frederick Engels and others for the funds to provide his family with the most basic needs. He often had to move from his lodgings in the middle of the night to escape legal action for nonpayment of rent. He fought with his mother for years because she would not give him access to an inheritance he felt he was owed. To make matters worse, he also suffered from poor health. He was tormented by incapacitating attacks of carbuncles—pus draining boils—and he was susceptible to respiratory ailments and stomach problems. Given the constant nature of his troubles, it is surprising that he had given any attention to changing the world. The portrait of Engels presented by Wheen is at least as fascinating as that of Marx. Engels was Marx’s savior throughout his life, providing him with money and unfailing support. Engels is also portrayed as a womanizer, gambler, and drinker. Through it all, he helped out the Marx family by working steadily at a job he didn’t particularly like in his family’s textile business. Wheen makes a point of letting the reader know that Marx would not have considered himself the progenitor of men like Stalin, Mao, or Castro. He was often disgusted with those who called themselves his disciples and once remarked that he, at least, was not a Marxist. The book does an excellent job of documenting the ups and downs of the innumerable workers’ political groups and protests of the era. Wheen manages to make the unavoidable chronology of these groups interesting by focusing on the personal affinities and animosities of their leaders and members, with Marx’s opinions always reigning over all. The saga of how Marx managed to write “Das Kapital” (“Capital” in English) is presented as the long, hard slog it was. Marx worked at it for some 20 years, while claiming it was nearly completed for most of that time. His writing process is described with all the interruptions caused by family dramas and financial setbacks (such as having family belongings thrown out into the street by angry landlords); political feuds (Marx was known for giving and then withdrawing his support of some of the revolutionary leaders of the time); and physical illnesses (the aforementioned carbuncles, which had a serious effect on Marx’s general state of mind throughout his life). In discussing “Capital,” Wheen suggests that the book should be viewed as a Victorian work of art, as Marx himself indicated to Engels that it was. Wheen notes that Marx did considerable research for his writings and used literary fiction to find the examples he needed to illustrate his texts. As Wheen writes, “More use-value and indeed profit can be derived from Capital if it is read as a work of the imagination, a Victorian melodrama, or a vast Gothic novel whose heroes are enslaved and consumed by the monster they created.” Wheen’s portrayal of Karl Marx shows a man who was angry, energetic, an intellectual genius, vindictive, self-centered, quick to take offense, impatient, and one who could hold his own with drinkers in the taverns. This is an excellent biography, a really enjoyable read that is full of fact-based gossip and a cast of fascinating minor characters.

What do a rogue elephant, a wild boar, and a shaven porcupine have in common? They all reflect facets of Karl Marx’s personality as described by British journalist Francis Wheen in Karl Marx: A Life...

When it comes to an author with the enormous energy that Charles Dickens had and the voluminous outpouring of work that he accomplished, it can be very helpful to have a concise framework for attempting to understand his life. Melisa Klimaszewski and Melissa Valiska Gregory, scholars at Drake University and the University of Toledo respectively, and each specializing in Victorian life and literature, have joined forces for this challenging task for Hesperus Press’s Brief Lives series.

Coming in at just over a hundred pages, the book divides Dickens’ life into five sections, followed by a brief “Afterlife.” Although the authors wonder in their introduction about where to begin with such a multifaceted personality, in the end, they decide to begin at the beginning. If a somewhat conventional choice, the details of Dickens’ childhood more pertinent than most because of the tribulations and challenges he underwent, and also because his many unforgettable portraits of child protagonists make his own early life, and his subsequent understanding of it, of particular interest.

As is fairly commonly known, Dickens’ family ran into financial difficulties, and his parents and some of his siblings ended up in debtors’ prison, while the twelve-year-old Charles was given employment in a blacking factory, where he spent long hours applying labels to bottles of boot blacking. He wrote about this experience many years later in the only fragment of autobiography that we have, which he sent to his friend and future biographer John Forster. The authors poignantly tell us that when Forster had previously asked his friend about that time, Dickens had only bowed his head and refused to answer.

Gregory and Klimaszewski caution us not to place undue emphasis on this lone autobiographical source. They remind us that Dickens “rarely lost the opportunity for rhetorical performance. Even the briefest of his letters reveal a keen awareness of self-presentation.” They go on to say that by 1847, when he wrote the letter to Forster, he would have been conscious that anything he wrote would find a public audience.  They point out that, although truthful, “his account also deflects any class snobbery against an author who had worked in a factory instead of going to school.” And they make the important distinction that Dickens may have been an advocate of the poor and the working class, “but he always adopted a middle-class perspective.” (page 19)

Moving on to the section the authors title “Boz,” a nickname Dickens had originally given his brother Augustus and then taken back as his own nom de plume, the authors follow him on his journey from newspaper reporting through his fictional sketches, playwriting, and eventually novels. He also gradually shifted from the role of reporter to that of editor-in-chief of a leading journal. Perhaps in the interest of space, this book is quite sparing in quotations from Dickens’ own work, but quoting from his very first published sketch, “A Dinner at Poplar Walk,” the authors show that the Dickensian flair was there from the very beginning.

They also point out that, despite early success, Dickens was not completely committed to the writer’s path initially, but was also drawn by a life in the theatre. They reveal how close the matter was by telling us that Dickens went so far as to ask for an audition at Covent Garden Theatre in the year before publishing his first story. Fatefully, he succumbed to a bad cold which caused his entire face to become inflamed and canceled the audition. Although he asked for a future chance, he never took it. While he continued to be drawn to theatrical involvement his whole life, this apparently was the end of his serious aspirations as an actor.

This is also the period in which Dickens met and married Catherine Hogarth. The authors feel it is worth telling the story of his previous love affair with Maria Beadnell, as it illuminates some of the themes of his later life. Above all, they show how his extreme sensitivity led to feelings of being slighted, all the while protesting his own innocence in any dispute. Although this biography is notably restrained in matters of speculation, the authors attribute the successful period of Dickens’ marriage in part to Catherine’s calmness and ability to accommodate his more demanding personality.

The outsized nature of Dickens’ life becomes apparent even in this small volume. At the same time, he was writing the novels that would make him famous, he was also involved in multiple projects and an extremely active family and social life. As the joint editors of several republications of his Christmas “Extras” for Hesperus Press, Gregory and Klimaszewski are perhaps especially aware of his role as editor. He seems to have enjoyed writing a framing narrative, such as the discovery of a piece of luggage, and then asking other writers to supply the stories that would become its contents. Though the contributors didn’t know what each other were writing, the authors tell us that “startlingly coherent themes or motifs appear with some frequency to link the stories together.” (page 65)

The last section of the book that speaks directly of Dickens’ life is called “Partings” and details the massive sea change that Dickens underwent, when, upon meeting the actress Ellen Ternan, he dissolved his life as he had known it, separating from his wife and forcing his many children to choose between them. With the restraint that is customary in this volume, the authors outline the facts as they are known, indulging in little speculation as to the reasons for them. What they concentrate on instead are the great lengths Dickens went to keep his relationship with Ternan from public knowledge, and the influence he exerted on friends and family alike to keep it a secret. His first biographer, John Forster, doesn’t reveal it, nor did Ternan herself, not even to her own children. His reputation remained paramount to him till the end.

In death, though, Dickens was not so successful in dictating terms. As the portion of the book portraying his life draws to a close, Dickens is quoted as saying in his will, “I emphatically direct that I be buried in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner.”(page 93)

On June 14, 1870, however, he was buried at Westminster Abbey. His afterlife, which is in the hands of his readers, had already begun.

When it comes to an author with the enormous energy that Charles Dickens had and the voluminous outpouring of work that he accomplished, it can be very helpful to have a concise framework for attempti...

We’re doomed! …or not. In The Cosmic Connection, Jeff Kanipe tackles the Earth’s place in the universe, and how other denizens and aspects of the cosmos have contributed to the development of life here. Yet, they may also have led to mass extinctions in the past and may yet again in the future. The cosmos giveth and the cosmos taketh away, it seems. Readers may already be familiar with the fact that our bodies (not to mention our planet) are made of elements forged in the long-ago deaths of stars (an insight described years ago by Carl Sagan in a book that, ironically, has the same title as this one). In fact, this connection has become known well enough that Kanipe, a science writer and author of several astronomy books, merely mentions it in passing on his way to describing other ways that the universe has affected life in the past and will again someday. When that “someday” will depend, of course, on highly theoretical extrapolations of what has happened, or may have happened, in the past. For instance, Kanipe describes various factors that may have triggered the cyclical ice ages of history. These include changes in Earth’s orbit (it’s not always as close to circular as it is now) and the inclination of its axis (it wobbles). Other contributors to climate change range from the familiar asteroid and comet collisions, to the changes in the sun’s energy output related to sunspot activity, to the nebulous effect of the sun’s pathway in and out of the spiral arms of the Milky Way. But the only scenario that appears to represent a not-too-distant threat of annihilation is that of a collision. We all know that’s what wiped out the dinosaurs. And the evidence is good that collisions were responsible for other, bigger mass extinctions in the geologic past. The question is, given the timescales between collisions and what we know and don’t know about the number of potential Earth-intersecting asteroids and comets, do we need to worry about one striking tomorrow? And if we do detect it heading our way, do we have enough time, and ability, to do anything about it? Kanipe addresses these questions, but he spends a lot more time writing about the subtle effect of the solar system’s position in relation to other stars in the Milky Way, and how that affects the production of cosmic rays. More cosmic rays will, in turn, produce more genetic mutations here on Earth. There’s even a theory as to how more exposure to the interstellar medium could, again, trigger an ice age. But the impact of these galaxy-scale events won’t be felt for eons to come, ranging from hundreds of thousands to hundreds of millions of years from now. So how concerned we should be depends on how much emotional attachment we feel to the generations so far down the road. And that’s if humanity is still around and hasn’t been wiped out by something else by then. In any case, we have a five-billion-year deadline to leave the solar system; that’s when the sun dies and turns our planet into a ball of ash. Uh-oh. Besides the effect all these cosmological factors have on life on Earth, Kanipe interestingly relates it to the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. After all, knowing how unlikely it was for our species to have advanced to this stage may give us a clue about how common sentient life is elsewhere. But there’s still a lot we don’t know, and despite advances in technology, we may not know whether we are alone in the universe for decades to come. (In fact, even if we are alone, we may never know that for certain. After all, there will always be more places to look.) The how-unlikely-life-is discussion also touches on the number of happy coincidences that have allowed for our existence, and how some theologians have commandeered this fact to argue that it was all fine-tuned by an intelligent designer. Kanipe wisely points out that the same universe that gave us these parameters that seem just right for life, also gives us the various hazards discussed above. The point is, it all could have turned out differently, but then we wouldn’t be here to think about it. While the author is careful with his caveats about what is still unknown about the universe, the reader may be amazed at how much we do know: How, within the relatively short span of our civilization, we’ve figured out the position of the solar system in the Milky Way; its speed within it and the rest of the universe; the existence and even the sizes of extrasolar planets; even the position and nature of wisps of interstellar gas. Rather than worry about the effect of all these things on our lives, it’s more satisfying to wonder what else we may discover in the time we have left.

We’re doomed! …or not. In The Cosmic Connection, Jeff Kanipe tackles the Earth’s place in the universe, and how other denizens and aspects of the cosmos have contributed to the development of li...

Notre Dame Professor of Literature Margaret Doody explores the importance of names and locations in some of Jane Austen's major works in supplying a rich cultural and historical backdrop for the stories, thus providing vital context for modern readers. Places and names are shown to indicate certain traits in her characters while nodding to important events of British history like the War of the Roses, Henry VIII's dissolution of monasteries, and the 17th century Civil War, all testament to the idea that “we bear names and live on sites of this earth that have been settled and fought over...a world dense with anachronism.” Besides the texts themselves, Doody draws from Austen's Juvenilia, marginalia, and correspondence to illustrate the author's personal viewpoints on the major social and political issues of her time.

After a brief but effective outline of the aforementioned historical events spanning several centuries, Doody expounds upon traditions and backgrounds of common first names of the time and the usage of titles to denote social status before delving into specifics. Persuasion hero Frederick Wentworth is linked to Austen's evident esteem for self-sacrificing patriot Thomas Wentworth, and his loyalty to Charles I and Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pride and Prejudice is associated with Thomas Darcy, famous for his part in “The Pilgrimage of Grace” rebellion against Henry VIII. This Darcy's descendants were allied with Mary Queen of Scots, another Austen favorite. Frank Churchill, nee Weston, of Emma, is the possible namesake of Henry VIII courtier Sir Francis Weston, executed for adultery with Anne Boleyn, the Austen character exhibiting the latter's same penchant for flirtation.

Of Austen's heroines, it is noted with irony that Northanger Abbey's Catherine Morland owns no property (“More-Land”) and that the “Ward” sisters of Mansfield Park were parentless, under the charge of an uncle. Some amusing generalities are noted as Austen seems to have quite definitive connotations for certain names, such as all “Johns” exhibiting some degree of “inconsiderate self-centeredness” and “Mary” being Austen's choice for “cold, selfish, and irritating females” while “Annes” are meek and “pushed around by siblings.”

The names of places chosen by Austen are esteemed equally as important to those of human characters for their ability to “carry the poetry of England and the story of a relationship with the land.” Northanger Abbey was a place of worship before its seizure by Henry VIII, now occupied by the self-serving Tilneys, a blatant comment on the potential ill-effects of private property. This is a trend in Austen's writing, picked up again in Sense & Sensibility with John Dashwood's enclosure of the formerly common area of Norland Park and the “stagnant ornament” that is Mansfield Park, surviving on income from colonial exploitation. The name “Mansfield” evokes the German town of Martin Luther's birth as well as Lord Chief Justice William Murray, given the title Baron Mansfield, famed for his decision in the Somersett case declaring all slaves within England, free persons.

Real places have their own connotations from history as well as Austen's personal life. Bath, a town Austen had visited and disliked, has its symbolism discussed at length as a site of invalid recuperation and quasi-illicit entertainment, appearing in both Northanger Abbey and Persuasion as locations of “transition and metamorphosis.” London is treated in a similarly ambivalent manner, urban-dwellers are generally looked down upon by Austen's “landed gentry” and Kent, Austen's “ancestral county” with its raucous history of rebellion is the setting for Darcy and Elizabeth's open quarreling. Huntingdon was home to Robin Hood and Oliver Cromwell before Austen designated it the birthplace of Maria and Elizabeth Ward of Mansfield Park, an inauspicious beginning they would just as soon forget. Antigua, the locus of Thomas Bertram's wealth is the “sour sweet spot in the invisible center” of the book and the opportunity for Austen to express her abolitionist sentiments.

People are shown to be “visibly the products of their place,” Catherine Morland hails from rural Wiltshire, and her naivety is frequently on display whereas the Dashwoods from Sussex are decidedly more cosmopolitan. These cultural differences provide roadblocks and opportunities for growth for Austen's frequently transitory characters.

Doody also draws parallels to some of Austen's influences, Shakespeare in particular with the “world of folly and courtship” of Emma aptly compared to The Merry Wives of Windsor. Others include the artist Charles Hayter for whom she named a character in Persuasion, poet and novelist Charlotte Smith, and Elizabethan writer and statesman Sir Philip Sidney. The 16th-century topographical work of William Camden, notably updated and popularized by Richard Gough in 1789, is cited as a near-certain reference for Austen when constructing her imagined place names.

Doody's well-articulated conclusion is difficult to argue with: “Names create a poetic fabric of connections and relationships, parallels, parodies, and memories” and while there are a few instances of tenuous presumptions, overall this is an excellent piece of scholarship. The concise account of centuries of British history and research into Austen's Juvenilia are particularly noteworthy. Fans of the iconic author will appreciate Doody's thorough analysis and the additional layers of meaning provided for some of literature's most beloved characters.

Notre Dame Professor of Literature Margaret Doody explores the importance of names and locations in some of Jane Austen‘s major works in supplying a rich cultural and historical backdrop for the...

One of the most singularly talented pianists of all time, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) dominated the musical world of the 19th century. An unrivaled virtuoso who also composed his own music, Liszt laid the bedrock for the Late Romantic and Impressionistic schools that would follow him. To this day, he is considered a musical genius who ranks alongside his contemporaries Chopin and Schumann as one of history’s most influential musicians.
Now in the fifth decade of an illustrious international career, Misha Dichter has performed with virtually all the world’s great orchestras. His critically praised classical recordings display a passionate and nuanced interpretation of Brahms, Liszt, Gershwin, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky, Schumann, Schubert, and other master composers and has received the “Grand Prix International du Disque Liszt” for his recording of Liszt’s piano transcriptions. He joins us on Culture Insight to share his insight into the life and work of Franz Liszt.

One of the most singularly talented pianists of all time, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) dominated the musical world of the 19th century. An unrivaled virtuoso who also composed his own music, Liszt laid t...

1. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the famous Renaissance-era scientist, inventor, anatomist, and artist known for Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, was an illegitimate child. His parents had 12 children from their respective marriages, but da Vinci was the only child from their relationship.

2. He had no last name in our modern sense. His birth name was Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci, literally meaning, “Lionardo of ser Piero [his father’s name] from Vinci.” This type of name was very common at the time, as hereditary last names would not become popular for another century. 

3. Leonardo was ambidextrous. He could write with both hands and used this ability to write in mirror script. This made his writing difficult to read and somewhat cryptic, but many historians have concluded that Leonardo’s reason for this was to avoid smudging the ink on paper. 

4. Since he was an illegitimate son, he did not have to follow in his father’s footsteps. This was a blessing in disguise because Leonardo did not attend classical schools and universities, which would have engulfed him in medieval thinking and education methods. Instead, Leonardo was free to dabble in any vocation he wanted, which is one reason we regard him as the first “Renaissance Man.”

5. Leonardo’s largest sculpture, Gran Cavallo, was never completed. Commissioned by the Duke of Milan in 1482, it was to be the largest equestrian sculpture until that time. Leonardo spent nearly two decades planning the sculpture’s construction; however, when France invaded Milan before the turn of the 16th century, the unfinished sculpture was destroyed by France’s army.

6. Though rather primitive, Leonardo’s drawings of the human body and his physiology studies laid the groundwork for much of modern medicine. He took a strong interest in physiology and frequently dissected bodies at hospitals to discern the function of major organs. 

7. By observing topography, fossils, and geography, Leonardo concluded that creation’s classical Biblical timeline needed to be questioned. He reasoned the planet would need to be much older than initially thought for the Earth’s various geographical features to form.

8. The Last Supper would not exist today. When France invaded Milan in 1499, France’s King, Louis XII, entertained the idea of removing The Last Supper from the wall it was set upon and keeping it for himself. In the following centuries, the painting would experience severe damage from humidity, not to mention the French soldiers who gouged out the apostles’ eyes in the 18th century. The painting’s final bout was fought in 1943. When the Allied Forces bombed the area surrounding Milan’s Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, those inside the church attempted to bolster the structural integrity of the wall the painting rested upon. The painting survived and still rests in that very convent.

9. Leonardo and Michaelangelo did not get along. It has been said that the two viewed one another as artistic rivals. The pair frequently taunted each other: Michelangelo for Leonardo’s destroyed horse, and Leonardo for Michelangelo’s overly masculine sculptures. 

10. Leonardo da Vinci likely died of a stroke on May 2, 1519. He was 67-years-old. Many scholars have speculated that he suffered from some sort of debilitating illness prior to his death, which prevented him from completing some unfinished works, such as the Mona Lisa. 

1. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the famous Renaissance-era scientist, inventor, anatomist, and artist known for Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, was an illegitimate child. His parents had 12 children ...

1. Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883), the German composer, director, and conductor, did not take to music as a child. The fact that he did not take piano lessons despite all of his siblings doing so exemplifies this. It would take many years—until Wagner was 18-years-old—for the famous composer to become formally trained.

2. Drawn initially to music for the sake of adding dramatic effects into his plays, Wagner, at the age of 13, wrote a play entitled “Leubald,” which he claimed needed to be set to music. 

3. It took Wagner many years to achieve the acclaim for which he is now known. He achieved true stardom around the age of 15 and blamed his lack of early success upon Jewish influence on his country’s music. In his treatise, Der Judenthem in der Musik, Wagner wrote that the Jews’ music was soulless and characterized by indifference. At the time of the treatise’s publication, the two most influential composers in Germany were Jews.

4. Though he was known to be a vehement antisemite, Wagner was ironically born and raised in the Jewish quarter of Leipzig, Germany. 

5. King Ludwig II of Bavaria sponsored Wagner’s musical endeavors. Not only did he provide Wagner with a stipend, but he also paid all of Wagner’s debts, sponsored his productions, and permitted Wagner to construct the opera house where Wagner premiered his productions, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus.

6. Wagner popularized the Leitmotif—a signature of music that plays whenever a character is seen on stage. In our day, the Leitmotif has been employed in film series such as Star Wars and Harry Potter. 

7. Wagner struggled to remain faithful in his romantic relationships. In one instance of infidelity, Wagner wrote love letters to the wife of a merchant, Mathilde Wesendonck. His then-partner, Minna Planer, intercepted the letter to Wesendonck. It has also been said that Wagner’s death was caused partly by an argument with his wife over his lust for other women. 

8. His first opera never premiered during his lifetime. The libretto was entitled, Die Fien (1833), or, The Fairies, and was not performed until June 28, 1888. Wagner modeled the libretto after La donna serpent, or, The Serpent Woman, by Carlo Gozzi, a comedy surrounding a tragic clash between the worlds of humans and spirits.

9. Wagner was and still is a controversial figure. One catalyst of Wagner’s tainted reputation was Adolf Hitler. Some say that Hitler once remarked that, “Whoever wants to understand National Socialist Germany must know Wagner.”

10. Toward the end of his life, Wagner suffered from angina, a condition in which one suffers from chest pain because of reduced blood flow to the heart. On February 13, 1883, while vacationing in Venice, Italy, Wagner died of a heart attack. He was 69-years-old. 

1. Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813-1883), the German composer, director, and conductor, did not take to music as a child. The fact that he did not take piano lessons despite all of his siblings doing so ...

David Thomson’s The Moment of Psycho is a foray into the black-and-white imagination of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film. While it is an examination of the movie and its impact on contemporary cinema, the book’s ultimate strength lies in little details that Thomson tosses our way, details that make this small volume of film criticism an enjoyable read. Timing is everything, and in the late 1950s, Hitchcock positioned himself perfectly to challenge cinema unlike ever before. Early in the book, film critic and historian Thomson paints a picture of what the arts and entertainment world looked like at the time. Attendance at the movies was dismal: in 1958, there were only 35 million filmgoers weekly, down from over 80 million just a decade before. As television sets became more ubiquitous in homes, the convenience of the small screen won out, and ticket sales took the brunt of the hit. That is, of course, until Hitchcock decided to confront a nation-wide audience with the genre of movies they’ve never seen before. In 1959, the year Hitchcock developed Psycho, a brutal murder of the Clutter family in Kansas made national news, paving the way for Truman Capote’s bestselling book, In Cold Blood. As Thomson points out, the book brought brutality into the mainstream—artistically speaking, of course—so why couldn’t Hitch do the same in film? He did that brilliantly with Psycho, and his genius as a filmmaker wasn’t limited to the classic shower scene that has become a part of Western pop culture. The narrative of the first half of the film that builds up to the murder in the Bates Motel is so crucial in Hitchcock’s sly, albeit risqué, craftsmanship. From the onset, Thomson wants us to consider the opening shot—a voyeuristic image of Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane and John Gavin’s Sam Loomis in a seedy motel room. The aftermath of sex is implied with Leigh lying on the bed in her undergarments and a bare-chested Gavin standing above her. The setup pushed censorship limits of the day for its imagery, but the underlying theme of the opening is far more intriguing. The author points out that before Psycho, there was a nagging sense of exceptionalism and optimism in American cinema, and Psycho challenged that spirit. Hitchcock used the Marion and Sam characters to demonstrate that there were people in America who wanted a better life, but would never have one. As Thomson says: “An American film has begun in which the hopes and desires of two mature people are overshadowed by lack of money and social freedom... Most films of the [1950s] are secret ads for the American way of life. Psycho is a warning about its lies and limits.” And so, Marion rebelled and stole the $40,000 entrusted to her by her boss; she would make the life she wanted for Sam and herself. But the audience and Thomson’s readers know differently, and when the conflicted young beauty pulled off of the rain-soaked highway into the Bates Motel and met its administrator, the handsome yet quirky Norman, it became apparent that Hitchcock had a strong fondness for these two characters. The den scene where the two shared a small meal of sandwiches and milk is the most intimate in the movie. Thomson’s insight into the shower scene is valuable. A murder took place, yet no visual depictions of flesh were shown. The sequence carefully used fast editing to make the experience so jarring, the original censorship board didn’t know what to make of it. The visual lewdness of a violent stabbing wasn’t there. But Hitchcock, being a true master, gave himself added security by including a throwaway scene that would rile up his censors, one of the dead Marion collapsed in the bathroom with her buttocks exposed. If cuts were needed, this shot was cunningly offered as a sacrificial lamb. And so movie history was made. Nevertheless, Thomson feels that the ending of the film sags in comparison to the rest, weighted down by the eventual explanation. As the author poignantly notes: “The film has run out of mystery, and it now hangs on the downhill run towards the “answer,” the payoff… An explanation beggars the whole game. There is nothing that mystery dreads more than the banality of explanation.” And while most film critics, Thomson included, agree that the psychiatrist’s final, long-winded explanation is unnecessary, it doesn’t derail the legacy of Psycho or one of the world’s greatest directors. Psycho spawned an entire genre of slasher movies, and yet that’s not what this film was at all. This bleak yet captivating experience challenged exceptionalism with fatalism, and as Thomson says, allowed Hitchcock to work with just as much satire as horror. He never took Norman in a dress too seriously, and perhaps we shouldn’t, either. Our showers are safe.

David Thomson’s The Moment of Psycho is a foray into the black-and-white imagination of Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous film. While it is an examination of the movie and its impact on contemporary ...

Can one ever forget the astonishment of reading a great piece of literature or seeing an extraordinary film for the first time? That sense of awe, one suspects, is what Gian Piero Brunetta had in mind as he undertook his original multi-volume Italian and world cinema histories, and now this comprehensive history of Italian cinema. That this book is a shorter translation of the former should not dissuade the intended audience of cinephiles and students. The author is professor of the history and criticism of cinema at the University of Padua and his passion for and knowledge of Italian cinema, as well as his erudition, shine through on virtually every page. It is impossible to read this book without gaining new insight into Italian cinema, and twentieth-century Italian culture and history. Just as important, Brunetta details the relationship between the Italian and American film industries sparing no feelings in his criticisms of both.

The Italian film industry was a little late in getting started, Brunetta tells us, but by 1910 or so major production was centered in Rome, Turin, Milan, and Naples. To these cities would be added Venice, Genoa, Catania, and Palermo, and production companies soon ventured even further into the provinces though many were only one-film deals. During the years before World War I, which Italy entered in 1915, Italian cinema enjoyed a high reputation worldwide, including screenings in the United States. The war and its aftermath brought about a decline that the Fascists sought to reverse once they came to power. Eventually, under Fascist rule, the majority of Italian film production came to be centered in Rome. The industry’s “all roads lead to Rome” phenomenon actually began in the years prior to Mussolini’s dictatorship when the private stock corporation Unione Cinematografica Italiana (UCI, the Italian Cinematic Union) was chartered in 1919. UCI films relied on a star system, but the actors within its fold were old fashioned, and changing tastes and internal dissent drove UCI out of business two years later. Nevertheless, UCI’s demise did not stop the trend of film production expansion in Rome. This is not to say that production ceased elsewhere in Italy but that, like Hollywood in its golden era, the vast majority of Italian films were produced in the capital. Rome’s hegemony over the Italian film industry was cemented with the creation of Cinecittà, the megalithic studio that became home to the superstars of Italian cinema.

When Brunetta tells us the Fascists “chose not to exercise control over the motion picture industry” (p. 74), he is primarily referring to fiction film because another film production organization over which it maintained total control, Instituto Nazionale Luce (luce means “light” as in the light that guides the way), came into existence in the late 1920s with the purpose of producing newsreels—hundreds per week during the 1930s. By 1936, Luce was screening a news serial titled Notizie dall’Impero (News from the Empire) that propagandized life under the Fascist regime. By then Luce had been in the documentary business for five years, producing films that aggrandized the regime. Another organization founded in the 1920s, but less important, was the Federazione Nazionale Fascista Industriali dello Spettacolo (National Fascist Federation of the Entertainment Industries) whose fortune, as its name implies, was tied to the Mussolini regime. In 1944, after the fall of that regime (the Salo Republic excepted), this was replaced by ANICA, the Associazione Nazionale Industrie Cinematografiche ed Affini (National Association of Film and Related Industries), which represented producers, distributors, and operators. ANICA “launched a series of initiatives aimed at consolidating production and creating, technical, artistic, and competitive guidelines” (p. 109). Repudiating its predecessor’s fascist affiliation, ANICA’s guidelines also removed political objectives from the financing and creative process. Just as important, ANICA took upon itself the task of protecting the Italian film industry from an American invasion—a task that eventually proved quixotic.

While rightfully including a discussion of the fluctuating fortunes of Italian cinema from the business and political perspectives—perspectives that, by the way, reveal the depth of Brunetta’s knowledge of all aspects of his subject—the heart and soul of the book lay with the films themselves, the actors, and, primarily, the directors. It is also clear that this is Brunetta’s main interest as well. There are sections where the casual reader may be overcome by the flood of names Brunetta releases, but others may be inspired to research and view the work of some of the lesser-known directors and actors, or even famous names who time has obscured, like that of the great Neapolitan comic Totò.

For most readers the heart of this book no doubt will be the chapter dealing with postwar cinema, particularly neorealism. Like most critics, Brunetta attributes the birth of Italian neorealism to Roberto Rossellini’s 1945 masterpiece, Roma città aperta (alternately translated as Rome, Open City or simply Open City). Brunetta offers a discussion of Rossellini’s style wherein he took to the streets to film a fiction that had the look of veritè. A fact new to some readers: the Rossellinian method was given impetus because the sprawling lots of Cinecittà had literally become a refugee camp under American auspices. From Rossellini, Brunetta continues with discussions of the major directors of the era Visconti, De Sica, etc., and many of the lesser lights, too. His discussion of directors Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni underscores how brief was the true neorealist period.

Throughout the book, Brunetta rescues his discussion of films and their directors, writers, and actors from an encyclopedic entrapment by interspersing it with discussions of the fluctuating tastes of Italian society and the country’s economic and political fortunes. He is especially convincing when he ties these in with the quality and quantity of the Italian film industry’s output. Thus, there are the “boom years” for the industry and the nation, the 1960s, followed by the anni di piombi (literally “years of lead”), the 1970s, when the Red Brigade and other terrorist organizations violently punctuated the industry’s retrenchment. But of course, no era is discreet, one blends into the next and occasionally revives years later. (Thus, there is a neo-neorealism.)

Brunetta also devotes sections of his book to genre films such as the western (the term “spaghetti western” was originally derogatory he tells us) and the horror film. In Italy, the horror film elided into soft-core pornography, which grew bolder as mores and censorship constraints relaxed. This was one of the reasons he attributes to the Italian film industry’s slide into domestic and international irrelevance. The primary causes of the industry’s decline he blames on television (a complaint Hollywood had leveled decades earlier) and the U.S. hegemony of the international market. The two fit together nicely as not only did U.S. film distributors capture even greater shares of the Italian market in the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s, but Italian television began to broadcast more U.S. small-screen productions. Brunetta also bemoans television’s contribution to the decline in the number of cinema theaters in Italy, but that is practically a worldwide complaint.

The book’s final section is devoted to the state of Italian cinema in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries, and here Brunetta ends on a hopeful note. He calls forth a cadre of filmmakers, led by Roberto Benigni, whose talents he sees as being able to lift the industry out of its doldrums. Perhaps he is correct though Benigni himself has not directed a film since 2005’s La tiger e la neve (The Tiger and the Snow). However, since the book’s publication in 2003—the English translation was published in 2009—others have stepped into the breach, such as Michelangelo Frammartino, who in 2010 directed Le Quattro volte, and Paolo Sorrentino, director of the 2014 Academy Award winner for best for film, La grande bellezza (The Great Beauty), not to mention the octogenarian Taviani Brothers who in the past few years have shown revitalized energy with Cesare deve morire (Ceasar Must Die, 2012) and Maraviglioso Boccaccio (Wondrous Boccaccio, 2015).

Can one ever forget the astonishment of reading a great piece of literature or seeing an extraordinary film for the first time? That sense of awe, one suspects, is what Gian Piero Brunetta had in mind...

Here is a quote to consider: “[Karl Marx’s] real mission in life was to contribute in one way or another to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the forms of government which it had brought into being, to contribute to the liberation of the present-day proletariat, which he was the first to make conscious of its own position and its needs, of the conditions under which it could win its freedom.” This statement was made by Friedrich Engels in 1883 at Marx’s funeral, and its pithy insight clearly summarizes the mission of the world’s most famous communist. The above quote also captures the very element of communism that Dr. David Conway, a Senior Research Fellow at Civitas, wishes to refute in his book, A Farewell to Marx: an Outline and Appraisal of His Theories. Marx’s communist beliefs have been both lauded and loathed by many around the world for almost two centuries, and it is the premise of Conway that communist philosophy needs to be evaluated critically and dismissed in the present day for its fanciful and unruly propositions. Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany in 1818. He became an official communist in 1843 while working for the Rheinische Zeitung, a newspaper where he wrote critical articles about the treatment of the poor by Germany’s monarchy of the day. It was this journalistic activism that sparked a fire in Marx, a spark that would lead him to the communist beliefs of his philosophical forefathers. To anyone just vaguely familiar with Karl Marx and his writings, there are some easy-to-recognize basics about his vision of communism. Marx believed in a war between capitalism and socialism: capitalism’s ultimate bottom line of profit will always undermine the greater good of mass well-being, whereas a purely socialist society would place all power in the hands of the people for the guarantee of a fair and just world. In both Marx’s writings and Conway’s analysis for refutation, it’s important to note the communist position that capitalism causes a mean-spiritedness that is not natural to the human condition. This is because of the goal to earn as much money as possible—when dollars and cents are entered into the equation, everything else becomes secondary. This includes the wellbeing of the workers, those that produce the goods and services that are required for capitalism’s survival. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Karl Marx Karl Marx[/caption] If capitalism is the problem, then it will eventually fall as Marx predicted it would. And from the ashes, a communist utopia will arise where labor is no longer a necessity but a luxury. Minimalist work will be abolished, and everyone’s creativity will be allowed to flourish. This liberation will be fueled by a collective wellbeing for humankind, and there will no longer be the need to earn a paycheck at the end of the day. But Conway is understandably skeptical of this, writing the following: “First consider the claim advanced by Marx that communism permits each individual to do what he likes, as he likes, when he likes during the period of work. This, surely, must be rejected as purist fantasy.” But Conway’s solutions are of the same theoretical lot as Marx’s; they’re just an opposite paradigm. Where Marx promoted total and complete communism, Conway simply promotes total and complete capitalism from the beginning to the end of his analysis. Recognize that A Farewell to Marx was originally published in 1987, a time when both the Reagan presidency and the Thatcher ministry were winding down in the West, two leaders that prompted heated debates about the power of capitalism over that of the state. The timeframe of the book’s publication also dates the material discussed in its pages. It’s been over 20 years since Conway first wrote the book and the balm of unfettered capitalism that he proposes as the true source of happiness doesn’t always hold up. In the book, he says: “If capitalism divides up the way work is distributed amongst members of society in a way that makes work unfulfilling for many, it does so because such a division of labor has been found to be more productive than a distribution that offers more fulfilling work.” Conway’s point is that Marx demands the freedom of creativity in work, so no one is stifled. Conway doesn’t believe this is possible if a legitimate economy is to be built. But Conway’s own point misses what Marx is saying. It’s not just about the profit of capitalists—happiness of the workers should matter. This is the divide of Conway’s sometimes ivory-tower approach of capitalism versus communism and their applications in the working world. A Farewell to Marx raises legitimate questions and concerns about the underlying meanings and intentions of Marx’s philosophy. How exactly can communism truly be taken seriously after evaluating it against the functions of the real world? But inadvertently, Conway draws his own conclusions into question, too. The current global economy is in peril; wage stagnation is at an all-time high; service-industry jobs are the fastest growing and lowest paying occupations available. Conway says that communism isn’t the answer. But with how things are going, neither is the purest approach towards capitalism. A Farewell to Marx has raised a much more elemental inquiry: what exactly is the answer?

Here is a quote to consider: “[Karl Marx’s] real mission in life was to contribute in one way or another to the overthrow of capitalist society and of the forms of government which it had brought ...

Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, drew on his wide knowledge of Charles Dickens's work and life to write his biography, Charles Dickens (Yale University Press, 2009). The focus of this work is eminently literary: Slater does not open with Dickens's birth or family tree, but with the first extant writing samples by Dickens the schoolboy, including a clever little note joking about a classmate's wooden leg. Slater tends to divide Dickens's life by the eras of his work, with sections such as “The Master Humphrey Experiment, 1840-1” or “Writing Bleak House, 1852-1853,” which take us from the often exuberant beginnings of a project to Dickens' mixture of pride and bereft depression at the end. Dickens was born poor in 1812, the son of a rather shiftless father who would serve as a model for such inadequate father figures as Joe from Great Expectations and Wilkins Micawber from David Copperfield. When his parents could not afford his schooling, young Charles spent about a year working in a blacking factory—a traumatic experience of which Slater expertly traces the effect in Dickens's later writings. Another youthful trauma, his jilting by Maria Beadnell, was an inspiration for later romantic stories. In 1836, he married Catherine Hogarth, with whom he had 10 children (one died in infancy) but whom he later cast aside when he met Nelly Ternan, the actress with whom he was involved until his death in 1870. Meanwhile, as Slater notes, Dickens was an indefatigable hard worker, enumerating how many professional, literary, and charitable commitments the writer had going on at once. He churned out his novels and copious short fiction and nonfiction, while also editing literary magazines such as Household Words with impressive energy, and undertaking tours to give public readings. Neither as personable nor as speculative as other recent biographies, Slater's work is anxious to stick entirely to the facts, dismissing as “gossipy” some of the speculations made by other biographers. His strictly evidence-based approach bears the mark of a careful and honest scholar, though the book pays the price in human interest. Nevertheless, the sheer volume of detail available to Slater, particularly in Dickens's private papers and intimate correspondence with his biographer John Forster, still allows a good deal to be said of Dickens's personal life. Slater does permit himself the occasional sly poke at his subject: “Not the least strange thing about this very strange genius was his jocose assumption in [his] letters that these regular childbirths were events for which he had no responsibility,” he writes of Catherine Dickens's 10th pregnancy. And with such a focus on the words of the witty writer himself, the biography cannot help but include moments of sparkling humor. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500"]Charles Dickens Charles Dickens[/caption] A biography of Dickens would not be complete without addressing his iconoclastic political views, the origins of which Slater traces in the shock of witnessing slavery in America; the long walks he took around every city he stayed in, witnessing the suffering of those in hospitals or living on the streets; and, perhaps most importantly, the miserable blacking factory experience of Dickens's youth. His generosity and empathy towards the poor, the disadvantaged, the innocent victims of society are to be admired in a man who was constantly under the demands of his own ambition, his family commitments, and his adoring public. Additionally, though Dickens' treatment of the women in his own life was dubious, he wrote with fierce sympathy of women who were the victims of physically and emotionally violent male partners, such as Nancy in Oliver Twist. Slater's work examines how Dickens's passionate desire to produce reform in society translates to his novels as well as his polemical writing, from the way he portrays the purity of Oliver Twist to the snarky, jabby political pieces he published anonymously in newspapers. Despite his resistance to gossip, Slater does tackle Dickens's scandalous relationship with Nelly Ternan, the actress, which almost certainly motivated him to separate from Catherine. He also looks at some of the other less savory aspects of Dickens's character: his refusal to take women's rights seriously, some unfortunate racist views, and his cruel treatment of Catherine. Readers interested in the Victorian literary “scene” might want to read of Dickens's petty quarrel with Vanity Fair author William Thackeray, or the apology letter he had to write Mary Barton author Elizabeth Gaskell for lifting the plot of a story he published from a favorite tale of hers. Then there are Dickens's brushes with the pseudoscience of the age: the “mesmerism” he conducted upon Augusta de la Rue, or the laughable scene of spontaneous combustion in Bleak House (followed by Dickens's passionate public statements on the theory's scientific basis after others pointed out how impossible it was). Slater resists using these saltier aspects of Dickens's life for cheap entertainment value, but they still add interest and humor to an otherwise dry book. After finishing Slater's tome, one feels oneself acquainted with the true character of Dickens the man: his deep, stubborn ambition; his narcissistic ability to justify himself in his personal choices; his tender love for certain people such as his sister-in-law, Mary; and of course, his extraordinary gift of observation. This gift not only allowed him to become one of English literature's most effective creators of character—from caricatures like Mrs. Jellyby to psychological realist portraits like Pip—but also made him an excellent actor, public reader, and conversationalist. The greatest strength of the biography is its loving attention to the details of Dickens's writing process and literary products. One fascinating source of information comes from Dickens's “mems,” or memoranda, for each number of many of his serials: careful plans showing the genesis of the complex ideas and plots that structure the finished work. If the purpose of literary biography is to trace the relationship between life and art, to develop the man-as-artist as well as the man himself, Slater does an excellent job of this on the large scale and the small. The many nature-related names Dickens tried out for David Copperfield, such as “Flowerbury” and “Copperboy;” the excisions he made to turn Oliver Twist into a two-hour reading of the heart of the novel entitled Sikes and Nancy; the mysterious notes that were left over from his last unfinished novel, Drood: these and many more serve as sources for Slater to interpret Dickens’s process and creations in terms of his life, weaving a unified narrative of his varied, brilliant body of work.

Michael Slater, Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London, drew on his wide knowledge of Charles Dickens‘s work and life to write his biography, Charle...

Austrian-born English philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) is considered as one of the most influentialalthough controversialthinkers of the 20th century. His work touched on topics such as ethics, logic, and language.
Rom Harré is Distinguished Research Professor in the Department of Psychology at Georgetown University and an Emeritus Fellow of Linacre College at the University of Oxford. He has published over 30 books in the Philosophy of Science and the foundations of Social Psychology. His 1972 book, The Explanation of Social Behavior, co-authored with P.F. Secord, is considered a landmark in modern social psychology. Harré shares his insight into the life and work of Wittgenstein. SUGGESTED READING [table id=29 /]

Austrian-born English philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) is considered as one of the most influential—although controversial—thinkers of the 20th century. His work touched on topics...

1. One of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) originally studied to become a Jesuit priest at Ludwig University in Freiberg, Germany. However, he eventually changed his major from theology to philosophy and mathematics.

2. Although born into a Roman Catholic family, Heidegger rejected this religion after studying the writings of Protestant thinkers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. He married a Lutheran, Elfride Petri, in 1917.

3. Though unfinished, Heidegger’s seminal work, Being and Time (1927), is considered to be one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century. In it, he attempted to analyze the concept of “Being.”

4. When the book was published and received critical acclaim in the philosophical community, Heidegger was promoted to full professorship at Marburg University.

5. Heidegger enjoyed spending time at his secluded vacation home in the Black Forest, where some of his philosophical ideas were shaped.

6. Among those who influenced Heidegger and helped his philosophical development were St. Augustine of Hippo, Aristotle, and his former professor at Freiburg University, Edmund Husserl.

7. In the 1930s, Heidegger started recording his thoughts in diaries he called the schwarze Hefte, or “black notebooks.” The first three were published in 2014, creating controversy because they exposed his pro-Nazi stance.

8. Despite his prominence as a philosopher, Heidegger was harshly criticized by many for his support of Adolf Hitler before, during, and after WWII.

9. Although pressured to do so, he refused to distance himself from the Nazi doctrines, proclaiming in one speech: “The Führer is Germany’s only reality and law.”

10. In 1966, Heidegger gave an interview to Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine, where he defended his pro-Nazi views. He stipulated, however, that the interview be published posthumously; it was released five days after his death, on May 31, 1976.

1. One of the most important philosophers of the 20th century, Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) originally studied to become a Jesuit priest at Ludwig University in Freiberg, Germany. However, he even...

Joining the chorus of voices in the health care debate, an issue that has continued to dominate the American conversation, is Timothy A. Kelly with Healing the Broken Mind. As Director of the Dupree Center Public Policy Institute, an Associate Professor of Psychology at the Fuller Graduate School of Psychology, and a licensed clinical psychologist himself, Kelly is certainly qualified to turn the spotlight on mental health care, and provide a measured criticism of the current system to treat the mentally ill. Simultaneously, he provides a multifaceted, pragmatic approach for introducing improvements. Simple, direct, and borne from common sense, Healing the Broken Mind may not contribute anything new to the mental health care debate, but it summarizes existing strains of thought with uncommon clarity. This book is most valuable to the general reader, looking for a bird's-eye overview of mental health care challenges and possible solutions. Starting with the premise that America’s mental health care system is fundamentally broken, Kelly retreats into a more conservative position as he outlines his recommendations, offering incremental reform rather than a call for revolution. These recommendations involve five key strategies: implementing evidence-based treatment, in which success is measured by scientifically-measured results and the lessening of symptoms; breaking the government monopoly of the health care system in favor of private competition; introducing parity, so that mental illness is insured in the same way as physical illness; giving more authority to the patient and his or her family in deciding the course of treatment; and convincing everyone involved in the system to adopt the previous four measures and to abandon the status quo. As Kelly characterizes it, the current system features little accountability, the lethargy of noncompetition, and the stigma of being segregated from other health services. The status quo also involves little emphasis on goals or results: for example, a mental health clinic might only keep track of the number of pills administered, instead of trying to quantify the success of those pills’ ability to actually eliminate symptoms. Keeping his arguments as apolitical and non-partisan as possible, Kelly refuses to ascribe blame to any one entity in the mental health bureaucracy, looking at the various issues from multiple perspectives. While some readers will appreciate Kelly’s refusal to enter the political fray or take sides, others, especially political partisans, might find his approach rather milquetoast or even toothless. Regardless, Kelly is eminently qualified to state his case. He was appointed Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Mental Health in the late 1990s and has also served on several boards, and commissions assembled to examine the state of mental health care. His assertions are well-researched—he cites paper after paper—and written in a decidedly accessible manner to which the non-professional will respond, especially since he provides definitions of both simple terms and jargon and otherwise employs very basic vocabulary. There is also a distinct scarcity of data and statistics, a lack that might endear a lay reader but repulse professionals or those hoping to find Kelly’s arguments bolstered with numbers. In a welcome touch, Kelly also humanizes the policy discussion with fictionalized case studies of people suffering from mental illness and how they are being dis-served by the current system. Kelly ends on a note of hope and optimism, believing that America stands “at the edge of history” and that a “perfect storm,” which will usher in a new era in healthcare, is on the near horizon. This concurrence of circumstances consists of three factors: visionary leadership, economic imperative, and public outcry. As with his recommendations, Kelly’s rosy view of the future is both admirably and frustratingly apolitical. In the author’s attempts to transcend politics and avoid igniting partisan bickering, it is up to the reader to decide whether Kelly has provided a realistic roadmap or just a pie in the sky vision. Setting aside the effectiveness of the discourse, Healing the Broken Mind is worthwhile simply because it opens a window into the sometimes grossly incompetent mental health bureaucracy. Kelly provides a brief history of treating mental illness, and while the author admits that America has come far from the asylums of the 19th century, he also exposes the reader to the current system’s wasteful spending, inherent inertia, and stubborn refusal to concern itself with whether treatments are even working. Some of Kelly’s ideas seem so commonsensical that the reader can only groan in dismay that they aren’t already standard practice. The story Kelly unravels is a story of the worst kind of government mismanagement, a story of insurers, providers, and policy wonks too invested in the largess and easy comforts of “business as usual” to bother changing things for the better. Government bureaucracy is usually a pejorative term, and Healing the Broken Mind demonstrates again and again how well-deserved this sentiment is.

Joining the chorus of voices in the health care debate, an issue that has continued to dominate the American conversation, is Timothy A. Kelly with Healing the Broken Mind. As Director of the Dupree ...