From a random review:

Get new posts by email:

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Navigate the site:
Click here for a complete list of books reviewed or select below:
Search the site:
The ratings:
5 stars  excellent
4 stars  very good
3 stars  good
2 stars  fair
1 stars  poor

Blog stats:

About the blogger:
Debra Hamel is the mother of two preternaturally attractive girls and the author of a number of books about ancient Greece. She writes and blogs from her subterranean lair in North Haven, CT. Read more.


Books by Debra Hamel:

THE BATTLE OF ARGINUSAE :
VICTORY AT SEA AND ITS TRAGIC AFTERMATH IN THE FINAL YEARS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

KILLING ERATOSTHENES:
A TRUE CRIME STORY
FROM ANCIENT ATHENS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

READING HERODOTUS:
A GUIDED TOUR THROUGH THE WILD BOARS, DANCING SUITORS, AND CRAZY TYRANTS OF THE HISTORY
By Debra Hamel


paperback | Kindle | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

THE MUTILATION OF THE HERMS:
UNPACKING AN ANCIENT MYSTERY
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

TRYING NEAIRA:
THE TRUE STORY OF A COURTESAN'S SCANDALOUS LIFE IN ANCIENT GREECE
By Debra Hamel


paperback | hardcover (US)
paperback | hardcover (UK)

SOCRATES AT WAR:
THE MILITARY HEROICS OF AN ICONIC INTELLECTUAL
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

ANCIENT GREEKS IN DRAG:
THE LIBERATION OF THEBES AND OTHER ACTS OF HEROIC TRANSVESTISM
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)

IT WAS A DARK AND STORMY TWEET:
FIVE HUNDRED 1ST LINES IN 140 CHARACTERS OR LESS
By Debra Hamel


Kindle | paperback (US)
Kindle | paperback (UK)

PRISONERS OF THE PELOPONNESIAN WAR
By Debra Hamel


Kindle (US) | Kindle (UK)





Book-blog.com by Debra Hamel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



Leighton, Ralph: Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman's Last Journey

  Amazon  

3 stars

The obsession started with a simple question, posed after dinner in 1977, when the subject of conversation had turned to geography. Richard Feynman, the Nobel  Prize-winning physicist who would later serve on the commission investigating the Challenger disaster (in 1986), asked his friend and drumming partner Ralph Leighton whether he knew what had become of Tannu Tuva. Leighton had never heard of the place and suspected he was being set up, but the Encyclopedia Britannica confirmed its existence. Tannu Tuva was once an independent country, but it became part of the Soviet Union in 1944. When Feynman and Leighton learned that the capital of Tuva was Kyzyl--a city without any proper vowels in its name--they knew they had to go there: "A place that's spelled K-Y-Z-Y-L has just got to be interesting!"

So began our heroes' eleven-year quest to reach Tuva, a more difficult project than you might imagine. Tuva, buried in the Asian heartland, was isolated, the Soviet Union was forbidding, and even basic information was hard to come by. (This quest, remember, was undertaken before the explosion of the internet. One catches oneself, when reading the book, thinking anachronistically about the task: why not just Google the place?) Eventually, of course, they learned an awful lot--about Tuvan throat-singing (my 1991 edition came with a 45!) and Kyzyl's main buildings, about Tuvan stone carvings and shamanism. And they communicated with Tuvans in Tuvan, using a Tuvan-Mongolian-Russian phrasebook that they turned into a Tuvan-Mongolian-Russian-English phrasebook.

Leighton's account of their various attempts to reach Tuva can be confusing--lots of names to remember of contacts who may or may not have wound up aiding in the effort. It all gets a bit muddied. And there is not as much of Feynman in the book as one would like. Tuva or Bust is primarily an account of Leighton's role in the quest, with Feynman making brief appearances now and then. Still, it is good to be in the physicist's company, however briefly, and it is good to be reminded, by this quixotic project of his, of Feynman's joy in experience.

Feynman fans, in short, will enjoy the book. Those who are not acquainted with him already, however, should become fans first by reading Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! and What Do You Care What Other People Think? (Feynman was also the subject of James Gleick's Genius.) And then, when you're really hooked, get the CD of Feynman drumming and telling stories about his experiences as a safecracker.... (I am myself about to order another book about Feynman, No Ordinary Genius.)

Comments

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In