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Constellation of Genius: 1922: Modernism Year One Hardcover – September 17, 2013

4.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Constellation of Genius . . . is that most counterintuitive of things, an insanely readable book about modernism. Indeed, I think it no disservice to Jackson to say that this is the primer [modernism] has been looking for: a way into its symbolic labyrinth.” ―Will Self, The Guardian

“A lively guide to modernism's heyday . . . Deft, elegant and illuminating. ” ―Literary Review

“[A] marvelous diary of a single year . . . You will be struck by some startling moment of import in a life of genius or an epoch-making event. ” ―Sunday Herald

About the Author

Kevin Jackson has written and edited more than twenty books, including The Book of Hours, Invisible Forms: A Guide to Literary Curiosities, and The Worlds of John Ruskin. He has written for The New Yorker, Granta, The Sunday Times (London), The Guardian, and Vogue, among other publications. He lives in Cambridge, England.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (September 17, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374128987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374128982
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Will Self described this as 'insanely readable', and Will Self is right... This book offers an incredible survey of (mostly) literary events, culled from letters, diaries and other contemporary sources. It's a brilliant drawing-together; I'd advise reading it next to a computer, so you can follow up every musical reference, every obscure German film, as it appears. This is the year of 'Ulysses' and 'The Waste Land', and there's a wonderful feeling of everything in this strand of the culture coming to a head; one of the great joys is following the ripples of critical response, some of it deeply and entertainingly hostile. You could grouse about the fact that this is a scissors-and-paste job, rather than a critical study - but I'd love to have this kind of easy, global knowledge, and the skill to marshal it all: new information is introduced chronologically, but Jackson feels free to break free from this structure in order to flesh out future developments.
I approached this in a partly dutiful spirit, and I certainly got the introduction I was looking for - but this is also the most purely entertaining book I've read this year: gossip from the dinner tables of your dreams.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Constellation of Genius is a day-by-day account of the year often cited as giving birth to "modernism" in literature, music, architecture, film and other areas of human endeavor. The book is more than a calendar though. Kevin Jackson is careful to select events that show critical reactions, circles of influence, and the evolution of ideas. He manages to encompass the grand arc of thought along with quotidian everyday life. Thus the year begins in Paris with Ezra Pound working with T.S. Eliot on the text of The Waste Land while Proust, in the same city, is out partying on New Year's Eve. It ends with the film premier of the scandalous, Salome, and with a letter from the unhappily married Eliot discussing his wife's latest in a series of illnesses. An appendix contains capsule biographies of leading players in the year's account. I bought this in hardback rather than on Kindle to better appreciate illustrations and photographs. Alas, the book is not illustrated, and a Kindle version is adequate.

Constellation of Genius demonstrates that using a microscope on a dust mote can reveal relationships and connections that would be missed by using a telescope focused on a whole section of the night sky.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The perfect book to dip into. 1922 was indeed one of the pivotal years in culture and the arts, and Kevin Jackson has digested it all into daily updates. It is as if the culture kept a diary with perfect foresight, concentrating on what would turn out to be significant. I use it as bedtime reading when I don't have another book going.

Pure delight.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Kevin Jackson posits that 1922 was the pivotal year in the world's transition to modernism. Others have singled out 1927, though just about any year in the 1920's would suffice. Paul Johnson pointed to 1815 as the beginning of the modern age. Just depends on your perspective. Though many have selected different years and made their case, none have done it the way Mr. Jackson has. CONSTELLATION OF GENIUS reads like a day-at-a-glance calendar for the artistic, literary, musical, scientific and political world. It really is fascinating to see how many influential men and women created, discovered, invented or proselytized epochal works, machines and ideas during that year. The entries are succinct and precise, which makes the book ideal for dipping into from time to time, though it is also worthwhile to just read straight through it. It is the kind of book you might consider hanging onto, as a useful resource.
As i said, the writing is solid, and his facts are for the most part solid. My one quibble with the book is Mr. Jackson's failure to conceal his bias. It was surprising how many times he would admit to being perplexed when one genius or the other expressed politically conservative views. "Surprisingly, so-and-so was a conservative," he wrote repeatedly, betraying the rather offensive view that with intellect must come liberalism. In fact, there are a great many highly intelligent conservatives. Apparently Mr. Jackson, insulated within his academic womb, has not made contact with any of them. Pity that. Perhaps he'll have the opportunity to expand his horizons one day.
However, that quibble aside, the book is worth a read.
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