“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.” Library Journal
From the author of international bestseller Einstein's Dreams and National Book Award nominee The Diagnosis.
After decades of living “hung like a dried fly,” emptied and haunted by his past, the narrator, a man who has lost his faith in all things following a mysterious personal tragedy, 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. An exciting new illustrated edition of a unique narrative poem.
|Publisher:||Red Hen Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Alan Lightman, physicist, essayist, and novelist, is Professor of the Practice of the Humanities at MIT, where he was the first person to receive a joint appointment in the sciences and the humanities. Lightman’s writing has appeared in Harper’s, Salon, The New Yorker, The Atlantic , and many other publications. His widely known Einstein’s Dreams was an international bestseller, and his novel The Diagnosis was a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction. His recent book The Accidental Universe was chosen by Brain Pickings as one of the best ten books of the year. He lives in Massachusetts.
Read an Excerpt
Abbas and I shovel sheep dung,
My olive trees hunched
Like a throng of old men
Sun overhead, I look up
And I gaze at the clouds
This is the way that I see:
Ten trillion photons of light make their way
Through my pupils each second of time,
Through the oval-shaped lens, through
The jelly-like fill to the retina, hundreds
Of millions of cells, where each photon
Of light meets a molecule, retinene, coaxing
It straight from its twisty vine,
Curled bougainvillea-like. Neurons
Respond to the dance. Protein molecules shift
In their shape, so that sodium cannot find
Passage, electrical charge unrelieved,
Shudder of current moves through
The neurons and flies to the folds of my brain.
Here the fourth layer is sentry, receives
The first tingle, computes a sensation,
And passes its tremblings to five other sheets.
In shards of a second, some hundreds
Of millions of neurons start quivering,
Each being shocked by one thousand others
And doing the same to one thousand more.
Click-click-click sound the firings,
Some punctured and scattered, some synchronized.
Click-click the pulsings in waves
And my brain tells me “cloud.”
I believe in the knowledge of sight.
Table of Contents
Part I: Questions with Answers
Part II: Questions without Answers
List of Photographs
What People are Saying About This
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
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Song of Two Worlds" by Alan Lightman (2009). Visceral, sensual, and reflective. This is a book of verse that is a bridge between science and the arts (to which only a few can do well - and one is Lightman). The book is like describing a fine wine - notes of Ovid and Pablo Neruda, Virgil and Dante are layered in, and with nuances of T.S. Eliot's 'Four Quartets.' Set in an a sparse, yet exotic locale, the words are of honeycomb and dates and sun-baked bread. The human soul in search of questions - more than answers.