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Cleopatra's Nose: Essays on the Unexpected

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This provocative new collection of essays by a Pulitzer Prize winner deals with the challenging themes of discovery and surprise in history. Cleopatra's Nose is not a miscellany but rather a selection of recent essays illustrating specific subjects that have preoccupied Boorstin for several decades. Tantalizing themes all: How sometimes discovery only increases our ignorance. What were the specific historical opportunities in the New World? How has the fourth kingdom - the kingdom of machines - contradicted ...
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NY 1994 Hard cover First edition. New in fine dust jacket. AN/NF(very ltly creased) 8vo. 210 pp. Index.

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Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A. 1994 Hard Cover New in New jacket 6 1/2 x 9 1/2. New with minimal shelfwear. A collection of recent essays by Boorstin illustrating specific ... subjects over a wide variety of topics that have preoccupied him for several decades on discovery, science, conscience and others.. Read more Show Less

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Overview

This provocative new collection of essays by a Pulitzer Prize winner deals with the challenging themes of discovery and surprise in history. Cleopatra's Nose is not a miscellany but rather a selection of recent essays illustrating specific subjects that have preoccupied Boorstin for several decades. Tantalizing themes all: How sometimes discovery only increases our ignorance. What were the specific historical opportunities in the New World? How has the fourth kingdom - the kingdom of machines - contradicted Darwinian expectations, contributed to a confusion of statistics, created the need for the unnecessary, and highlighted the paradoxes of science and the politics of common sense? In a "personal postscript," Boorstin gives us a memorable and affectionate portrait of his father and optimistically celebrates the United States as the Land of the Unexpected.

This provocative new collection of essays by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Daniel Boorstin deals with the challenging themes of discovery and surprise in history. In a "personal postscript, " Boorstin gives us a memorable and affectionate portrait of his father and celebrates the amateur spirit in the writing of history.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Librarian of Congress emeritus Boorstin (formerly history, Univ. of Chicago) presents a distillation of his ideas on the role of discovery and surprise in history. Some lesser pieces written for particular occasions and an affectionate but perceptive portrait of his father (and mother) round out this collection. The essays emphasize the unexpected as a major consequence of the path-breaking scientific discoveries and the major social, cultural, and political changes that have reshaped the Western world in the last few centuries. Boorstin delights in paradox: scientific discoveries sometimes only increase our ignorance; the new "kingdom of machines" seemingly contradicts the politics of common sense. The writing is fluid and mellow. Recommended for general and academic libraries.-Harry Frumerman, formerly with Hunter Coll., New York
Donna Seaman
The amusingly cryptic title of Boorstin's rigorous essay collection comes from a line of Pascal's: "Cleopatra's nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed." This observation appeals to Boorstin's penetrating sense of history and of "the crucial role of the accidental and the trivial." The Librarian of Congress Emeritus and one of the world's most widely read historians, Boorstin is a skilled essayist. Here he revisits his favorite subjects--American history, exploration, science, and technology--but uses them as conduits for fresh perceptions into our fractured era. He begins by putting a spin on his signature theme of discovery by discussing the value of "negative" discoveries: proving that certain things don't exist or aren't possible. This leads to an illuminating piece on the merging of the discoverer and the inventor, a union that gave life to a new personality: the scientist. In the midst of his thoughts on the role of machines in our lives, Boorstin turns his attention to human nature and presents us with two ardent and shrewd essays about conscience. One examines conscience and the art of writing; the other traces the roots of political correctness to a "startling renaissance of the New England conscience." Boorstin forces us to think clearly about the consequences of "Balkanizing" America and the habit of defining ourselves as victims. One of the many pleasures of reading is watching great minds at work; Boorstin's is one of the finest.
Wall Street Journal
The scope of Boorstin's work is as broad as history itself.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679435051
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1st trade ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 9.59 (h) x 0.98 (d)

Table of Contents

Foreword
I Realms of Discovery
1 The Age of Negative Discovery 3
2 The Cultures of Pride and Awe 18
3 An Odd Couple: Discoverers and Inventors 31
II Trials of Conscience
4 The Writer as Conscience of the World 41
5 Our Conscience-Wracked Nation 53
III New-World Opportunities
6 Printing and the Constitution 63
7 Roles of the President's House 74
8 The Making of a Capitol 86
9 An Un-American Capital 97
IV The Cautionary Science
10 Tocqueville's America 107
11 Custine's Russia 113
V The Fourth Kingdom
12 Darwinian Expectations 125
13 Statistical Expectations 141
14 Artificial Selection 158
15 The Great Separation 170
VI A Personal Postscript
16 My Father, Lawyer Sam Boorstin 181
17 Land of the Unexpected 191
Acknowledgments 201
Index 203
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