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Acquainted with the Night: Excursions Through the World After Dark Paperback – May 12, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Noted Canadian writer Dewdney (The Immaculate Perception) celebrates the science, religion and art of night in a delightful compendium that charts the nocturnal phases-planetary, human and animal-of life. Dewdney writes confidently about the physics underlying sunset, darkness, lunar phases and the dimensions of night. He explores global culture's nighttime customs and associations found in bedtime stories, festivals, fireworks, sexuality, the gothic imagination, ancient myth and stargazing, among other traditions and practices. He makes several journalistic excursions: studying the work of a pyrotechnical team, accompanying a Toronto constable on night watch and offering himself as a sleep laboratory subject. Through close readings of classic bedtime stories, Dewdney perceptively analyzes childhood's special relation to night, home and security. Yet he also spends time in the adult precincts of nightlife, limning brief histories of cabaret and prostitution before describing the contemporary nightclubbing scene. A fascinating history of street lighting links it to changes in policing methods and attitudes to crime. Night is a tactile realm, Dewdney reminds the reader. Nostalgic for organic purity, he bemoans the lack of true darkness in our overlit modern world. He reports on how light pollution disturbs our circadian rhythms and how sleep deprivation can ruin one's long-term health. Dewdney is careful to thoroughly elucidate the basic neuroscience of the dreaming mind. His summarized history of dream interpretation includes Mesopotamian myth, Vedic lore, Native American and ancient Chinese and Greek theories, as well as Freud and Jung. Tautly written in a highly condensed yet personable voice, this tour of the manifold nocturnal realm is a superbly meticulous feat.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“Dewdney's capturing of a zone of knowledge is a public event.” ―Books in Canada

“A deep thinker with a scrutinizing sense of humor... His writing is like a laser beam; it is clear, brilliant, focused and used as an operational tool.” ―The Toronto Star

“Christopher Dewdney is a poet, one of the most remarkable working in Canada now.” ―Saturday Night

“Nothing escapes Dewdney's oddly polymath intelligence.” ―The Ottawa Citizen

“Dewdney makes me revel in the wonder of life.” ―Eye Magazine

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA (June 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582345996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582345994
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,569,275 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rachel L. on June 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a night owl and poetry-lover, I was intrigued by the title alone. Dewdney's writing is gorgeous: at turns it's funny, poignant, and illuminating. It's easy to tell the writer is a poet. At the same time, it's full of fascinating trivia and pieces of knowledge, covering history, physics, literature, astronomy, psychology, and philosophy.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Xena on February 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This highly unusual examination of the phases of night will ensure that never again will you be oblivious of them. The author begins with the three stages of twilight---civil twilight, nautical twilight, and astronomical twilight, and ends with first light, the beginning of dawn.

In between he takes you through all the phases humans have assigned to the hours: dinner hour, children's bedtime, fireworks festivals, ghost- walking hours. Then there are the natural ones, such as the hour the nocturnal animals come out, stages of sleep, the best times for astronomical observations.

He does this in a poetic and engaging way, for this is no dry recitation of facts. Each hour has its own delights, and he exults in celebrating them and saluting them.

My only caveat is that his 'hours' are based on a northern European/American rhythm of the day. For them, "It is 11 pm and a great many people are asleep"---but in Spain they are just sitting down to dinner! It helps to remember the great variety of human behaviors in just about everything.

Read this book and fall in love with night!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Book Woman on August 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
This has now become my favorite book about the night. I liked this book better than "At Day's Close" by A. Roger Ekirch, which was more of a scholarly examination of a very specific subject: how night was experienced before electric lighting. That book was interesting, but in a dry, factual way. "Acquainted with the Night" is chock-full of facts, too, but covers a broader range of night-related themes (such as sunsets, constellations, insomnia, dreams, bedtime stories, nightclubs, even a visit to a sleep clinic). The book is divided into 12 chapters - one for each of the 12 hours of the night -- and is written in a very engaging, readable voice. The author is also a poet, which probably accounts for his writing style, and he intersperses night-related snippets of poetry into the book.

This book does contain one curious error, however. In the chapter entitled "The Art of Darkness" in which the author describes various famous paintings that depict night, he says about Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks": "Outside, on the sidewalk in front of the windows, an anonymous man walks by, bathed in the green light flooding from the diner." Either Mr. Dewdney has never seen the painting and was repeating an erroneous description he was given or he was looking at a bad reproduction of it. I live in Chicago, where the original "Nighthawks" hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago: There is no man walking by outside the diner in "Nighthawks." All four figures in the painting are inside the diner. I'm surprised that this mistake wasn't caught by the editors, and that no one else seems to have noticed it.

In spite of this error about one of my favorite works of art, I can't hold it against Mr. Dewdney when he has also portrayed the various aspects of night so evocatively. It's still worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
Wonderfully intriguing -- an invitation to take a journey through the 12 hours of darkness, with a trustworthy and wise guide. This book is like a curiosity cabinet -- full of delightful items you've probably never considered before, some of which go bump, and some of which entrance: sleep, murder, dreams, bats, goddesses, astronomy, a wide variety of nocturnal creatures, meditations on philosophy, science and literature -- all explored with a poet's sensibility. Dewdney's interests in things of the night is so far ranging that I suspect not every single thing in the book with interest every single reader, and but where else could you discover that we are most sensitive to dust at 11 p.m. or, discover that the Panzer divisions invading Poland were on methamphetamine, or hear a comet described thusly: "there is something fascinating yet unearthly and menacing about a comet, as if it were a cold, phosphorescent angel of calamity - it hangs in the sky like a beautiful jinx." Lovely. Now, grab your lantern and a pair of stout boots, it's time for a little nocturnal wandering...
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By STwilight on January 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An absolutely delightful book for those of us whose favorite time of day begins when the sun sets. Christopher does an excellent job of blending the world of science, culture, anthropology, history, astronomy and more to give the reader the most comprehensive book about night. It's very relaxing and gives the reader an excellent visual. The writer also blends some humor and personal experience. Very well done. Highly recommended for those who love night. The book will take you there.
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