TiaRachel is returning home from NN10 today making it impossible for her to put together this chat thread. In her absence, I've gathered some information on the authors and books being highlighted by Jon and Stephen and their guests tonight. I do this with love for and thanks to TiaRachel who I finally got to meet at NN10.
Tonight The Daily Show has as its guest William Rosen author of The Most Powerful Idea in the World and The Colbert Report has Hephzibah Anderson author of Chastened
The Most Powerful Idea in the World: A Story of Steam, Industry and Invention by William Rosen is the story of James Watt, the genius behind the steam revolution and it reveals how inspiration often needs a little push.
Some more information below.
At the heart of Glasgow Green, the city's oldest park, there is a 140ft obelisk dedicated to Horatio Nelson. Built in 1806, a year after the great man's death, the monument was the first major civic commemoration to be erected after his victory at Trafalgar and predates the construction of Nelson's Column in London by more than 30 years.
Much later, in the 1980s, Glasgow's councillors decided to place a second memorial near the column, a small boulder with a simple inscription. "Near this spot in 1765, James Watt conceived the idea for the separate condenser for the steam engine."
One of the things that makes this book so enjoyable is the detail of the research - the author clearly really likes diving into obscure detail, then bringing it out in a way that intrigues. I wish he hadn't used footnotes - all the footnotes are worth reading, and would work much better as part of the main text - but that's a small concern. I'm assuming that the research was thorough. There is one glaring error, but I'm guessing it's just a slip where he relied on memory and it let him down (I'm always doing this in my books). He attributes the put-down 'All science is either physics or stamp collecting,' to Kelvin, where it was actually Rutherford who made this cutting remark.
All in all, though, an excellent book about an era that should be essential knowledge for all of us in the modern world.
In less than a century, in a single place, human welfare and prosperity, which had barely changed in the preceding 10,000 years, entered an era of sustained and explosive growth that continues to this day. The moment did not occur in 2nd century Alexandria, or 12th century China, or Renaissance Italy, but in 18th century Britain; and, as William Rosen chronicles in his extraordinary new history, the reason was the power of an idea: that inventors should have ownership of their inventions.
The Most Powerful Idea in the World is the story of that idea as expressed in the “biography” of a single invention: the steam engine. How it came to be born; how it grew to power factories, drive other inventions, and carry people and freight, by rail and by sea. Along the way, Rosen introduces readers to a giant cast of larger-than-life characters....
Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year Without Sex by Hephzibah Anderson
Hephzibah Anderson, in an effort to try to untangle and distinguish her desire for love from her desire for sex, chose to go a year without the latter. The author of Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year Without Sex talks to TIME about how celibacy can be a good thing.
There is nothing sex-negative about the book ..... Anderson had no interest in denying her sexuality (in fact, she didn't restrict herself from all sexual activity) -- she was merely fed up with a "casual sort of intimacy without intimacy." She wanted more and could no longer pretend otherwise. "Rather than continuing to go along with what others seemed to want from sex, I had to rediscover what it meant to me," she writes. A large part of that was for sex to be "legitimately momentous again, rather than an inexorable conclusion given the right cocktail of time and place" -- and cocktails, of course.
The memoir draws a detailed map of Anderson's romantic journey through her 20s and into her 30s -- but the take-away isn't that young women should follow her exact course, but that we should each navigate our own route.
Chastened was released in French last month – under an English title, No more sex in the city - which gave rise to plenty of ‘only in France’ moments.
In what other country would a national broadsheet enquire about an author’s ‘fantasmes sexuels’? Likewise, where else on earth would a two-hour radio show, hosted by a former porn star and tackling such subjects as the geography of the vagina, air daily not at midnight but at midday? (Then again, aren’t the French meant to know all that stuff? Can they really need two hours of tuition each day?)