River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West

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Viking, 2003 - Biography & Autobiography - 305 pages
8 Reviews
The world as we know it today began in California in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This extraordinary assertion is at the heart of Rebecca Solnit's brilliant new work of cultural history. Weaving together biography, history, and fascinating insights into art, technology, landscape, and philosophy, Solnit has created a boldly original portrait of America on the threshold of modernity.

During a period of feverish creativity that commenced in 1872, Eadweard Muybridge succeeded for the first time in capturing and reanimating high-speed motion on film-the crucial breakthrough that made movies possible. He also continued his series of breathtaking photographs of the monumental landscape of the American West, served as official photographer of the grueling war against the Modoc Indians, and, in a blaze of publicity, stood trial for the murder of his wife's lover. In Solnit's taut, compelling narrative, Muybridge's life becomes a lens for a larger story about the transformation of time and space in the nineteenth century. With dazzling erudition and a rare mastery of the interlocking histories of art, technology, politics, and commerce, Solnit shows how the peculiar freedoms and opportunities of post-Civil War California led directly to the two industries-Hollywood and Silicon Valley-that have most powerfully defined the contemporary world.

River of Shadowsis Solnit's most captivating book yet-wide- ranging in its allusions, daring in its connections, always surprising in its conclusions.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - snash - LibraryThing

This is a biography of an early photographer and then a whole lot more; the west, industrialization, Stanford, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Captain Jack. Wild and rambling, making sweeping surprising connections. All great fun and thought provoking. Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - gregorybrown - LibraryThing

Basically amazing. Rebecca Solnit surveys Eadweard Muybridge's life and career, tracing the changing effects of space and time throughout his photographic work. At the same time, Muybridge is but a ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Rebecca Solnit, author of six highly praised works of nonfiction, including Secret Exhibition, Savage Dreams, and Hollow City, contributes essays about visual art, public space, landscape, and environmental issues to national magazines and museum exhibition catalogs.

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