2008: 81. The Professor And The Madman

“Popular myth has it that one of the most remarkable conversations in modern literary history took place on a cool and misty late autumn afternoon in 1896, in the small valley of Crowthorne in the county of Berkshire.”

The Professor And The Madman, Simon Winchester

After reading The Meaning of Everything, I decided I had to reread The Professor And The Madman.  I’ve enjoyed other books by Winchester, especially the one about the San Francisco earthquake (A Crack At The Edge of the World) but I remembered not being that impressed with The Professor when I read it last time (even though it was a NY Times best seller forever). And this time I was similarly unimpressed.  After reading The Meaning of Everything, which, while not necessarily scholarly, left me feeling like I was getting the whole story, I felt like the story in The Professor was told at a perfunctory level and left me wanting more details or something.  Winchester had an incredibly interesting story to tell (crazed lunatic murderer becomes one of the leading contributors to the OED), but I was left feeling that he couldn’t find enough detail to really fill out the story - that it either required more information or that it was really only enough for a long article, not a whole book.  Particularly after reading The Meaning of Everything, which told a much more complicated story in a satisfying way, and still managed to recapture the basics of this story too, I was disappointed. I guess that I have higher expectations for my true crime, but it seems strange that what to me is Winchester’s least satisfying book is his most famous.


Date/Place Completed: 5/13/08; D.C.

Categories: Non-Fiction; Re-Read (Book Resolution!)

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017