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Tuva or Bust!: Richard Feynman's Last Journey Paperback – June 17, 2000
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Always adventurous, Feynman was also a careful planner, recounts his friend and fellow drummer Ralph Leighton in this affectionate memoir. When a chance remark happened to dislodge a long-dormant memory of a faraway Siberian land called Tannu-Tuva, Feynman and Leighton set about scheming to get there--a program that included learning the little-described Tuvan language, picking up the rudiments of throat singing, and reading the scattered, hard-to-find literature concerning a place that, in Feynman's fond view, was as close to paradise as the earth contained. It also involved corresponding with scholars in what was still the Soviet Union and wrangling with bureaucrats to secure the necessary papers--all for the sake of seeing a country that had to be interesting, Feynman insisted, just because its capital, Kyzyl, had such an odd spelling.
These picaresque armchair adventures make up the bulk of Tuva or Bust, an unconventional mix of travelogue and scientific biography that's a pleasure to read at every turn. The book yields a memorable picture of Richard Feynman--who did not live to see Tuva, but whose memory is honored there today, thanks to Leighton's refusal to abandon their shared dream. --Gregory McNamee
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book chronicles the adventures and misadventures of Ralph Leighton, one of Feynman's longtime friends. Though the book is subtitled "Richard Feynman's Last Journey," it's really Leighton's story; Feynman is more of an inspiration and a supporting character. Over several years, Leighton and his friends wrote letters, researched articles, read books, and became more and more fascinated by Tuva, a tiny country in the middle of nowhere. They learned, among other things, that Tuvans practice three different types of steppe herding lifestyles, within a hundred miles of each other, and that Tuva is the home of throat-singing, a musical technique in which a single person produces two notes at the same time.
Leighton's narration is chatty, reminiscent of Feynman's autobiographical works; one suspects Leighton learned to tell anecdotes from his friend. However, Leighton isn't as inherently fascinating a narrator as Feynman. Also, Feynman's persistent cancer, which kept him from participating in several preliminary trips, and finally killed him shortly before Leighton received permission for a group of Americans to travel to Tuva itself, casts a pall over the book.
Still, this is a fascinating story -- a great example of what people can do if they really care about a cause, and don't realize precisely how little chance they have of succeeding.Read more ›
for physicist Richard Feynman. Although subtitled "Richard
Feynman's Last Journey," "Tuva or Bust" is more about the
efforts of the author, Richard Leighton, to get permission
and the means to visit a Soviet republic formerly known as
Tannu Tuva in the 1980's because "any country whose capital
is spelled 'Kyzyl' must be worth visiting."
The book is simultaneously an adventure story, a manual on
how to do research and a loving (in a manly way) tribute to
the genius of Richard Feynman. I learned more from this
little book than from the last half-dozen tomes consumed.
As an added bonus, (the hardcover edition, at least) contains
a vinyl record with samples of Tuvan "throat singing" in which
the singer produces two notes simultaneously!
Do you know where Tanu Tuva is located? I do, as I once saw it on a globe years ago. It was a country wedged between Russia and Mongolia, but Stalin took it over in the 1940's. Like the people in the book, exotic locales like this interest me, so I had to read this book.
The subtitle of the book is "Richard Feynman's Last Journey" - but Feynman died before getting to Tuva. Sort of sad after all the trouble they went to to get there. The author did go, but it was very anti-climatic, as he barely said anything about the actual trip after pages on all the hoops they had to go through to get there.
If you read the book, it seems like Feynman was involved, but not nearly as much as the author and others mentioned in the book. Well, Feynman was famous, so I guess the subtitle helped attract attention to the book. In any case, the story is interesting and illustrates how weird and frustrating it was to deal with the old USSR - something quickly being forgotten perhaps.
To digress, I had a Russian penpal during communist rule, and it was interesting. I had to use registered mail (very expensive) to be sure he saw my letters. He actually defected to England before the Communists were out in Russia, and I got to meet him there at the end of a business trip. Sort of made the book relate to me more as I had this experience.
Getting back to the book review, I do recommend the book. It is like a time capsule for life so different, but not that long ago. Give it a look.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I quite enjoyed this unexpected little gem.
From a literary standpoint, 'Tuva or Bust' is well-written for a book of its type, with a clear, functional narrative, not... Read more
I read many books about Feynman, but this is different. I could understand him a little bit better; how passionate, how curious, how obsessive (in a good way of course! Read morePublished 7 months ago by alev
It is not about Richard Feynman. It is a journal of an unsuccessful attempt to enter an insular country. Feynman plays a cameo role, if that, in the story. Disappointing. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mia L.
What a story!! Such a long time to keep at a dream! Richard seems like a very unique adventurer--so sorry to learn he never physically made it to Tanna Tuva. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Kris Jordan
This is another fine book about Feynman by a fellow physics faculty member at Cal Tech and recounts their adventures spawned by an exotic stamp Feynman found of a tiny country near... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Michael
If you have never read anything by Richard Feynman (or don't even know who he was), with help from Ralph Leighton, you have missed something wonderful. Read morePublished 24 months ago by Dee Phelps
This is a great book about one of the greatest American scientists of the 20th century. It has alot of information about cold war era issues surrounding the adventures of Mr. Read morePublished on June 17, 2013 by jtmedley21