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Einstein's Dreams Paperback – November 9, 2004
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“A magical, metaphysical realm...Captivating, enchanting, delightful.” —The New York Times
“Endlessly fascinating. A beguiling inquiry into the not-at-all theoretical, utterly time-tangled, tragic and sublime nature of human life.” --The Boston Globe
“Lightman is an artist who paints with the notion of time.” --Los Angeles Times
From the Inside Flap
A modern classic, Einstein's Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar.
Now translated into thirty languages, Einstein's Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians, and painters all over the world. In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.
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As you already know from reading the description, these short fables (the longest one is 4 pages) are alternatives to the way time might function in this universe as imagined by Einstein's dreams as he comes up with the Theory of Relativity. Each universe is unique, and Lightman describes them with such fragrant imagery that the reader cannot help but step into the weird worlds where houses whiz around on wheels or are built on stilts topping the mountains, all in order to gain more time. But at the end of each description, Lightman questions our superficial view of time and the power we allow it to have over us. There was not a single chapter that after reading I did not have to put the book down and collect my thoughts.
This is the sort of book you can read in one sitting or place by your bed in order to ensure fantastic dreams every night for a month--and beyond. Because in the end, time is something we cannot avoid, so why not take some time to think about it?
The ideas the author puts forth are fascinating. I'm glad I read it and I'm only giving it 5 stars. I went back and forth - should I give it 4 or 5? - because it seemed unnecessarily depressed most of the time. In the end, I decided my petty bias over a book's tendency to be a little dark should cause me to knock it that much in its rating.
I do, however, think it would've been a much better book if the author had put a little less bleakness in there. Still, it is a wonderful book to read, bleak as it is sometimes. Einstein lived in a relatively dark time in the world's history, too. Then again, my own country feels like it's going dark right now and my dreams are not always gray. To each his own, I guess. The author made assumptions about Einstein and wrote this book accordingly.
Anyway, five stars. Great book overall.