Starred Review. In a compelling tale with resonance for today, Blum evokes a surprising sympathy for her band of tough-minded intellectuals—among them philosophers, psychologists, even two future Nobelists—who, around the turn of the 20th century, pursued the paranormal in an attempt to bridge the gap between faith and science at a time when religion was besieged by the theory of evolution and a new scientific outlook. Foremost in the Society for Psychical Research in America was the brilliant philosopher and psychologist William James, who like the others, risked his reputation in this unorthodox pursuit. Blum unearths the history of their research, their passionate friendships and debates, as well as their private doubts about the meaning of their work. Much of the society's efforts were devoted to exposing charlatans, but even the most dogged of the members, Richard Hodgson, was baffled by Boston's Leonora Piper, a reluctant medium of rare gifts. As Hodgson obsessively studies this medium, the story grows weirder and weirder, but Blum, who was nominated for an L.A. Times Book Award for Love at Goon Park, tells it straight, never overdramatizing the strange events. She achieves deep poignancy at moments that in less gifted hands could have seemed most laughable. The result is a moving portrait of a fascinating group of people and a first-rate slice of cultural history. (Aug. 7)
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Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer Prize?winning science writer and professor of science journalism at the University of Wisconsin, tackles a chapter from our past that doubly intriguesthrough the search for the afterlife and the number of famous thinkers associated with it. Critics point out that, despite her compelling narrative and her evenhanded history, Blum comes up short in her examination of the reasons behind spiritualism's rise in popularity. She never wavers, however, in her ability to draw in readers with stories of famous mediums and their ability to deceive. The result is an entertaining look at the ubiquitous séances and spirit-summonings that make a study of spiritualism a worthwhile curiosity to readers more than a century later.
Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Editorial Reviews
There are many different views on this book. It is interesting to know how people read book from their own personal view, not from objective view point. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Shige
This is the account of a dogged effort by scholars during the second half of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century to unravel claims of a wide variety of... Read morePublished 10 months ago by John Mayfield
Exploring the paranormal is nothing new. These pioneer scientists from the late 19th century courageously tried to gather answers to the afterlife to the scorn of the scientific... Read morePublished 17 months ago by doorknob
This book is a well organized review of a search for a scientific basis for proving that life after death exists. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
This fascinating book looks at how, when William James, the father of modern psychology, came up with research that indicated an afterlife, the scientific community denigrated him... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Susie Madrak
I initially listened to this book on CD a couple years ago. The author does an amazing job of showing how hard William James & his colleagues worked to apply the scientific... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Maren Hansen
I love it. My friends and I had a book club and this is the book that we read. We are intrested in the paranormal and this was a great book to start with.Published 23 months ago by A. Sohnly