Angels and Ages: A Short Book About Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life

Adam Gopnik, Author . Knopf $24.95 (211p) ISBN 978-0-307-27078-8

In the year of Darwin’s and Lincoln’s bicentennial, New Yorker contributor Gopnik (Through the Children’s Gate ) can’t resist the temptation to find parallels of cultural impact between the men, born on the same day in 1809, seeing them as twin exemplars of modernity. Gopnik notes that “it is not what they have in common with each other that matters; it is what they have in common with us. ” And that commonality lies in the modern way of speaking (plainly) and thinking (scientific and liberal in the broad sense). But the comparison of the two men feels like a stretch, and Gopnik’s notion that the very idea of democracy was precarious until Lincoln freed the slaves isn’t wholly convincing. In potted biographies of the two, Gopnik emphasizes the influence of Lincoln the lawyer on Lincoln the politician, and Darwin’s unusual abilities as a writer of science. Most successfully, Gopnik underscores the importance of eloquence in spreading new ideas, and his notion that Lincoln and Darwin exemplify the modern predicament—that humans must live in the “space between what we know and what we feel”—is resonant and worth thinking about. (Jan. 30)

Reviewed on: 11/17/2008
Release date: 01/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 211 pages - 978-1-84916-186-2
Paperback - 235 pages - 978-0-307-45530-7
Open Ebook - 127 pages - 978-0-307-27121-1
Downloadable Audio - 978-1-4561-0825-0
Hardcover - 211 pages - 978-1-84724-929-6
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