Hailed by the "New York Times" as "a fascinating, spicy, learned tale, " this runaway national bestseller takes an extraordinary look into literary genius, madness, and the making of the"Oxford English Dictionary."Hailed by the "New York Times" as "a fascinating, spicy, learned tale, " this runaway national bestseller takes an extraordinary look into literary genius, madness, and the making of the"Oxford English Dictionary."Read Less
Good. The book has been read but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact and the cover is intact. Some minor wear to the spine. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 272 p. Contains: Illustrations.
What an interesting book, one filled with eccentric but useful people. I will now see the OED in quite another light.
Sep 16, 2010
The American edition of "The Surgeon of Crowthorne" is a fascinating story as well as an excellent read. The subject has been superbly researched - as is a hallmark of any Simon Winchester book - and is all the more worthy because it's not a subject that gets much attention by the general reader. The two central characters are so well drawn that it makes for an absorbing read. The only minor quibble is that some of the side stories meander to the point of distraction.
Aug 20, 2007
Normalcy and Madness
Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman is a model of nonfiction, fascinating, intelligent, and elegantly written, telling the utterly compelling story of Prof. Murray, the editor of the first Oxford English Dictionary, and his friendship with Captain Minor, who was committed to an insane asylum for murder and became one of the most prolific volunteer contributors to the peerless text. It's about a mad life partly redeemed by scholarship. The book also raises serious questions about the lines between normalcy and madness, and the peculiarities of a mind at once so ill and delusional, yet so rigorous. The reader is also given devastating glimpses of the Victorian Lambeth slums, Minor's adolescent lusts in Ceylon, his horrible self-castration, and his increasingly debilitating "monomania" in old age. In contrast, Murray's "character" is overshadowed, but he seems a model of decorum and consideration in his treatment of Minor. But perhaps most astonishing of all is the 70-year heroic undertaking to complete the OED itself. An altogether absorbing read.
Publishers Weekly, 1998-07-20 The Oxford English Dictionary used 1,827,306 quotations to help define its 414,825 words. Tens of thousands of those used in the first edition came from the erudite, moneyed American Civil War veteran Dr. W.C. Minorĉall from a cell at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Vanity Fair contributor Winchester (River at the Center of the World) has told his story in an imaginative if somewhat superficial work of historical journalism. Sketching Minor's childhood as a missionary's son and his travails as a young field surgeon, Winchester speculates on what may have triggered the prodigious paranoia that led Minor to seek respite in England in 1871 and, once there, to kill an innocent man. Pronounced insane and confined at Broadmoor with his collection of rare books, Minor happened upon a call for OED volunteers in the early 1880s. Here on more solid ground, Winchester enthusiastically chronicles Minor's subsequent correspondence with editor Dr. J.A.H. Murray, who, as Winchester shows, understood that Minor's endless scavenging for the first or best uses of words became his saving raison d'?tre, and looked out for the increasingly frail man's well-being. Winchester fills out the story with a well-researched mini-history of the OED, a wonderful demonstration of the lexicography of the word "art" and a sympathetic account of Victorian attitudes toward insanity. With his cheeky way with a tale ("It is a brave and foolhardy and desperate man who will perform an autopeotomy" he writes of Minor's self-mutilation), Winchester celebrates a gloomy life brightened by devotion to a quietly noble, nearly anonymous task. Photos not seen by PW. Agent, Peter Matson. BOMC selection. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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