In his latest, columnist and author Burke (Twin Tracks) looks at the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence through his history-as-networking perspective, ""an approach I've been using for thirty years... that's recently become known as 'six degrees of separation.' "" Spraying historical tidbits like buckshot, Burke looks for the hidden links behind (seemingly) everything; in chapter three, for example, Burke begins with unremarkable signatory William Whipple, considers his part in the Battle of Saratoga, pursues the defeated British general ""Gentleman Johnny"" Burgoyne back to his playwriting debut, penned in celebration of the earl of Derby's marriage, for whom a new annual horse race would be named in 1780; from there, Burke is indeed off to the races: the next four pages cover, among other topics, the first strip cartoon, Napoleon's favorite surgeon, the Order of Saint Margaret, the invention of the Geiger counter and the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association which, in 2002, named as its president a man named, yes, William Whipple. The effect is less like connecting the dots than surfing the Web at breakneck speed: an impressively dizzying reading experience with little depth. Readers looking for analysis, or even a sustained narrative, will be disappointed in these overstuffed micro-lessons, but they're perfect for trivia buffs (or those who just wish books were more like the internet).
Reviewed on: 07/02/2007 Release date: 07/01/2007 Genre: Nonfiction