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Uncentering the Earth
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About the Author

William T. Vollmann is the author of The Atlas (winner of the 1997 PEN Center West Award), Seven Dreams: A Book of North American Landscapes, and Europe Central. His nonfiction includes Rising Up and Rising Down which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2003, and his novel Europe Central won the National Book Award in 2005.

Reviews

A revolutionary novelist on a revolutionary astronomer. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Modern readers are less inclined than earlier ones to sit through Copernicus's juggling of Ptolemy's epicycles to discover how he arrived at his eureka moment that the Earth moves around the Sun. Fortunately, they don't have to, as Vollmann, whose Europe Central won this year's National Book Award for fiction, provides a highly personal and philosophical gloss of all six chapters of Copernicus's De revolutionibus (1543). Vollmann interrupts his exegeses with discussions of the contemporary mindset, the limits of observation at the time (we're told repeatedly how difficult it is to spot Mercury without a good pair of binoculars) and the scientist's quiet, provincial career. What seems most remarkable about Copernicus's book after reading Vollmann's version is how firmly his work is based on Ptolemy's. It's also striking how close he came to modern astronomical values, especially since he thought that arriving within 10 degrees of a true value would be an amazing achievement. Vollmann can't completely avoid technical explanations, but readers who want to understand the significance of Copernicus's book in both his own time and ours will find this the next best thing to reading it. 20 b&w illus. (Feb. 6) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Energetic, piquant, and contextually rich. . . . Vollmann writes with vigor and poetic insight about the evolution of science." -- Booklist
"Peppered with intrigue, conflict and even a little human interest." -- Kirkus Reviews

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