Song of Two Worlds

Song of Two Worlds

5.0 1
by Alan Lightman
     
 

In Alan Lightman's new book, a verse narrative, we meet a man who has lost his faith in all things following a mysterious personal tragedy. After decades of living "hung like a dried fly," emptied and haunted by his past, the narrator awakens one morning revitalized and begins a Dante-like journey to find something to believe in, first turning to the world of

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Overview

In Alan Lightman's new book, a verse narrative, we meet a man who has lost his faith in all things following a mysterious personal tragedy. After decades of living "hung like a dried fly," emptied and haunted by his past, the narrator awakens one morning revitalized and begins a Dante-like journey to find something to believe in, first turning to the world of science and then to the world of philosophy, religion, and human life. As his personal story is slowly revealed, little by little, we confront the great questions of the cosmos and of the human heart, some questions with answers and others without.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
The book begins with an un-named protagonist finding himself suddenly moved to re-examine his life, both to confront past tragedies and failings and also to look for meaning. We overhear his thoughts as he uses his scientific skill to interrogate the mechanisms of the cosmos and the workings of his own body. When he reaches the limits of scientific ‘questions with answers’ he turns to ‘questions without answers’ which must be explored by faith, art or philosophy. Alongside rehearsals of insights by great thinkers and teachers we also get glimpses of the narrator’s relationship with an old and loyal servant. This weaving of the lofty with the human and mundane is one of the more effective aspects of the book.
— Michael Bartholomew-Biggs, London Mathematical Society, May 2010

Alan Lightman could have written this verse narrative that brings together his explorations in the worlds of science, art and philosophy and makes of them this strange and mysterious but seamless and beguiling whole.
— Anita Desai, July 2009

Lightman's Song of Two Worlds is of consistent high quality and poetic energy. To begin with, the perspective is intelligently conceived, surprising, and productive. The provenance of the speaker who obviously is routed in the Islamic culture, his scientific competence, his familiarity with history-combined with his personal view, his regular life, his introspective mood, all this creates a captivating and innovative narrative verse. Congratulations!
— Hans Magnus Enzensberger, July 2009

In taking on several more layers than the usual two-cultures-debate-featuring works, and quite successfully dealing with them, Song of Two Worlds is a nice addition to the scientific-poetic library.
— M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review, October 2009

Song of Two Worlds has been chosen as one of Seed Magazine's "Books to Read Now" for the month of November. Click on the link above for details!
— Seed Magazine, November 2009

Alan Lightman's Song of Two Worlds has been reviewed in Nature Magazine! Click the link above for access to the article.
- -NATURE Magazine, November 2009

Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman is currently being featured on New Scientist's Holiday wish list. Check out the link above for details!
— Liz Else, New Scientist, December 2009

Created by a man of science and art, Alan Lightman's work is a unique thing to behold. "Song of Two Worlds" is a collection of poetry from the physicist, as he blends his two disciplines well for a truly fascinating insight into the world around us. With fine verse, "Song of Two Worlds" is a top pick.
The Midwest Book Review, December 2009

Alan Lightman was recently profiled by a new online site, Chapter 16. This site is dedicated to Tennessee writers and readers. Please click on the link above for the full article!
— Maria Browning, Chapter 16, January 2010

Library Journal
Here, novelist (Einstein's Dreams) and physicist Lightman has created a vivid and moving first-person narrative in verse. The two worlds of the title are the two sections of the book: "Questions with Answers" and "Questions without Answers," with the former representing scientific inquiry and the latter the intuitive capacity that allows us to respond to great art. But this work is no simple intellectual exercise—it is the story of a man who is exiled within his own country, whose intelligence and aloneness keep him perpetually knocking at the door "naked…wearing only my questions." Lightman names the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore as the inspiration for this work. For the nonscientists among us, Lightman has provided entry into a world to which we would otherwise have limited access. Several artfully placed photographs (in black and white in the text and in color on the cover) anchor the story into its setting and serve as found poems in their own right. VERDICT A vivid and moving book-length narrative poem that places the reader inside of a universe of wonder; of interest to poetry readers and beyond.—Sue Russell, Bryn Mawr, PA
Liz Else
This slim volume of narrative verse by the author of the bestselling book Einstein's Dreams is a bold move. The point, says arts/science polymath Alan Lightman, is to explore meaning and truth in science, but in the highly concentrated form only possible in verse. It pays off: "There's no completion in mind/With its unending halls/Or electronic minds that have no belief".
—NewScientist's CultureLab Science News Blog

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781568814636
Publisher:
Taylor & Francis
Publication date:
09/21/2009
Pages:
112
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Read an Excerpt

11.

As I hold this glass shard in my hand.

I have entered the cosmos of questions with answers.
This is the world of the sharp spheres of hail,
Orbits of planets, vibrations of atoms,
The fission of cells, pulse of a neuron,
The plucked string of a harp,
Wavelength of blue light.

Here, atoms are pierced
By equations, the sunlight exposed by a prism,
The cells observed passing their secrets
Of organ and bone. Nothing escapes
Being weighed and titrated, resolved
Into numbers, displayed in a graph.

Is this the place where I make something whole?
Find a solidity?
Slow down my dark fall to nothingness?
Subdue the voice that says No?

Should the lab be my temple?
The microscope my prayer mat,
The stopwatch my candle?
My sacraments test tubes and beakers,
Pipettes, calorimeters,
Specimens, diodes,
Transistors, glass flasks?
Should my guides now be Darwin, al-Haytham,
Lavoisier, Einstein, and Newton?

12.

I knock on the door of the universe, asking:
What makes the light of the stars?
What makes the heat of my flesh?
What makes the tear shape of rain?

Questioned, the world walks on little feet.
Ask and take wing while my body
Stays bound far below -
Body, poor stone
That will wear down
To dust,
Like this ruined villa perched on the sea.

So much that I've lost,
I have nothing
Except a fierce hunger
To fathom this world.
Naked, I knock on the door,
Wearing only my questions.



Reprinted with permission from AK Peters

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
The book begins with an un-named protagonist finding himself suddenly moved to re-examine his life, both to confront past tragedies and failings and also to look for meaning. We overhear his thoughts as he uses his scientific skill to interrogate the mechanisms of the cosmos and the workings of his own body. When he reaches the limits of scientific ‘questions with answers’ he turns to ‘questions without answers’ which must be explored by faith, art or philosophy. Alongside rehearsals of insights by great thinkers and teachers we also get glimpses of the narrator’s relationship with an old and loyal servant. This weaving of the lofty with the human and mundane is one of the more effective aspects of the book.
— Michael Bartholomew-Biggs, London Mathematical Society, May 2010

Alan Lightman could have written this verse narrative that brings together his explorations in the worlds of science, art and philosophy and makes of them this strange and mysterious but seamless and beguiling whole.
— Anita Desai, July 2009

Lightman's Song of Two Worlds is of consistent high quality and poetic energy. To begin with, the perspective is intelligently conceived, surprising, and productive. The provenance of the speaker who obviously is routed in the Islamic culture, his scientific competence, his familiarity with history-combined with his personal view, his regular life, his introspective mood, all this creates a captivating and innovative narrative verse. Congratulations!
— Hans Magnus Enzensberger, July 2009

In taking on several more layers than the usual two-cultures-debate-featuring works, and quite successfully dealing with them, Song of Two Worlds is a nice addition to the scientific-poetic library.
— M. A. Orthofer, The Complete Review, October 2009

Song of Two Worlds has been chosen as one of Seed Magazine's "Books to Read Now" for the month of November. Click on the link above for details!
— Seed Magazine, November 2009

Alan Lightman's Song of Two Worlds has been reviewed in Nature Magazine! Click the link above for access to the article.
- -NATURE Magazine, November 2009

Song of Two Worlds by Alan Lightman is currently being featured on New Scientist's Holiday wish list. Check out the link above for details!
— Liz Else, New Scientist, December 2009

Created by a man of science and art, Alan Lightman's work is a unique thing to behold. "Song of Two Worlds" is a collection of poetry from the physicist, as he blends his two disciplines well for a truly fascinating insight into the world around us. With fine verse, "Song of Two Worlds" is a top pick.
The Midwest Book Review, December 2009

Alan Lightman was recently profiled by a new online site, Chapter 16. This site is dedicated to Tennessee writers and readers. Please click on the link above for the full article!
— Maria Browning, Chapter 16, January 2010

Read More

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