Book reviews from The Free Lance-Star.
MADNESS DRIVES GENIUS
By Lindley Estes
The Free Lance-Star
EDWARD BALL’S “The Inventor and the Tycoon” revolves around two men, very different on the surface, but whose eccentricities link them.
Ball tells the story of Edward Muybridge, the inventor of the moving picture, and Leland Stanford, his patron and former governor of California, whose obsession with whether a horse’s four hooves all ever leave the ground at once drove Muybridge’s project.
But the story is also about the type of man who settled the West, and the Gilded Age and what it means to be a genius. It’s part crime novel, part biographical study.
Ball informs the reader that Muybridge’s achievements in stop-action photography are overshadowed by his being a murderer. What makes the book such a good read is how Ball turns themes around, like crime in Muybridge’s case to create phrases like, “The code Muybridge cracked, the crime he committed for which no one charged him, was the kidnapping of time,” referring to his moving pictures.
While meticulously researched, the lack of chronology takes away from what otherwise would be a suspenseful read.
Ball also has a tendency toward exposition that is at times enlightening, but removes the reader from the story line. |
The story itself, though, is one surprising in its not having been previously told, about how modern life, increasingly played out on screens, was built on madness.
Lindley Estes is a reporter with The Free Lance–Star.
THE INVENTOR AND THE TYCOON
By Edward Ball
(Doubleday, $29.95, 447 pp.)
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