Stargazing in the Atomic Age by Anne Goldman


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 dramas 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.

The efflorescence of energy and creativity in Jewish communities in the traumatic twentieth-century is celebrated in these sparkling essays on Jewish intellectuals. Goldman explores the lives and works of modern Jewish scientists, artists, composers, and writers, putting them in the context of the war, persecution, and migration to America, which shaped their lives and the larger Western culture in which they were rooted. . . . The result is an absorbing excavation of the Jewish experience. A beguiling meditation on Jewish achievements that shine brightly against a dark background.

—Kirkus (starred review)

Anne Goldman’s exhilarating essays show, among many other things, that the most convincing way to write about history and culture is to write from a unique personal perspective. These essays shine a bright light on each of their subjects-scientists, writers, artists, musicians-while the character of the author shines brightly from the page.

—Edward Mendelson, Lionel Trilling Professor
in the Humanities, Columbia University


Anne Goldman’s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Tin House, the Guardian, The Georgia Review, the Gettysburg Review, and the Southwest Review, among other venues. Her essays have been named as notable in Best American Essays, Best American Science and Nature Writing, and the Best American Travel Writing. Nominated for a National Magazine Award, she is the recipient of fellowships from the Ahmanson/Getty Foundation and grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Goldman is Professor of English at Sonoma State University. She is at work upon a second nonfiction manuscript, “An Aria for Insects and Other Essays.”