is more than an eloquent and gorgeous history of artificial light; it is a survey of profound experiences long lost to the human senses, imagination and heart. Brox reveals how light and darkness create intimacy and isolation, mark periods of rest, work and dreaming, and she demonstrates how light damages and divorces us from the natural world. All students of literature, history and art should read Brilliant
; anyone interested in what it means to be human should read it, too.
Brox begins and ends her history in the dark caves of Lascaux where Ice Age people fashioned stone lamps and by these small lights painted the extraordinary horses, ibex, cats and other creatures that come alive, "out of darkness as you pass. Nothing stays still. Shadows nestle in the cavities; a flicker of light across a pale protruding rock turns a hoof or raises a head....
Beyond the Book
provokes much thought on a variety of topics: circadian rhythms; the health dangers of light exposure; the depiction of natural and man-made light in art (Brox discusses three of Van Gogh's night paintings and explains what light and darkness was like for him.); the Columbian Exhibition; the eccentric and visionary Nikola Tesla; the effect of light on the lives of women; etc. I leave it to each reader to explore those topics that interest him most.
illuminated a favorite poem of mine, Coleridge's Frost at Midnight
, in which the speaker describes a flame as "companionable," "unquiet," "a fluttering stranger" whose restless and mysterious movements exhibit a human sympathy. Post Brilliant