Stargazing in the Atomic Age: Essays
During World War II, with apocalypse imminent, a group of well-known Jewish scientists and artists sidestepped despair by challenging themselves to solve some of the most difficult questions posed by our age. Many had just fled Europe. Others were born in the United States to immigrants who had escaped Russia's pogroms. Alternately celebrated as mavericks and dismissed as eccentrics, they trespassed the boundaries of their own disciplines as the entrance to nations slammed shut behind them.
In Stargazing in the Atomic Age, Anne Goldman interweaves personal and intellectual history in exuberant essays that cast new light on these figures and their virtuosic thinking. In lyric, lucent sentences that dance between biography and memoir as they connect innovation in science with achievement in the arts, Goldman yokes the central drama of the modern age with the brilliant thinking of earlier eras. Here, Einstein plays Mozart to align mathematical principle with the music of the spheres and Rothko paints canvases whose tonalities echo the stark prose of Genesis. Nearby, Bellow evokes the dirt and dazzle of the Chicago streets, while upon the heels of World War II, Chagall illuminates stained glass no less buoyant than the effervescent notes of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue.
In these essays, Goldman reminds readers that Jewish history offers as many illustrations of accomplishment as of affliction. At the same time, she gestures toward the ways in which experiments in science and art that defy partisanship can offer us inspiration during a newly divisive era.
ANNE GOLDMAN is a professor of English at Sonoma State University and author of Take My Word: Autobiographical Innovations of Ethnic American Working Women, Continental Divides: Revisioning American Literature; and, with Amelia de la Luz Montes, María Amparo Ruiz de Burton: Critical and Pedagogical Perspectives. Her essays and fiction have appeared in such venues as Tin House, The Guardian, the Georgia Review, the Gettsyburg Review, and the Southwest Review. Her work is frequently cited in Best American Essays and has also been named as notable in Best American Travel Writing and Best American Science and Nature Writing. She has been nominated for a National Magazine Award and recognized with a National Endowment for the Humanities award and an Ahmanson/Getty Fellowship.
Stargazing received a starred review in Kirkus, which calls the book "A beguiling meditation on Jewish achievements that shine brightly against a dark background." You can read the full review here.
Science writer Juli Berwald calls Stargazing a "powerful meditation on the visionaries who helped mold the twentieth century," one "where art and science--and the people who excel at them--are so much more than just the sum of their parts." The full review is available here.
Anne was interviewed by Megan Harlan, author of Mobile Home: A Memoir in Essays and the 2019 recipient of AWP's Award for Creative Nonfiction. You can find the interview here: https://farsickness.com/four-questions-on-farsickness-anne-goldman/
A two-part conversation between Anne and fellow Georgia Review essayist Laura Sewell Matter is here, which includes a link to buy the book through the quarterly's e-commerce site with no shipping costs.
Ph.D candidate in history at Columbia University Grant Kleiser and I talked about Stargazing in a podcast hosted by the New Books Network. You can listen to this podcast, which features commentary about Einstein's love of Mozart, Primo Levi's affiliation with Dante, and the blend of memoir, biography, and intellectual history in this essay collection, here.
Find "Ode to Energy," a reading and discussion about Einstein, Feynman, and Oppenheimer drawn from Stargazing here.