Ezra Pound referred to 1922 as Year One of a new era. It was the year that began with the publication of James Joyce's Ulysses and ended with the publication of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land, two works that were arguably "the sun and moon" of modernist literature, some would say of modernity itself.
In Constellation of Genius, Kevin Jackson puts the titanic achievements of Joyce and Eliot in the context of the world in which their works first appeared. As Jackson writes in his introduction, "On all sides, and in every field, there was a frenzy of innovation." It is in 1922 that Hitchcock directs his first feature; Kandinsky and Klee join the Bauhaus; the first AM radio station is launched; Walt Disney releases his first animated shorts; and Louis Armstrong takes a train from New Orleans to Chicago, heralding the age of modern jazz. On other fronts,
Einstein wins the Nobel Prize in Physics, insulin is introduced to treat diabetes, and the tomb of Tutankhamun is discovered. As Jackson writes, the sky was "blazing with a ‘constellation of genius' of a kind that had never been known before, and has never since been rivaled."
Constellation of Genius traces an unforgettable journey through the diaries of the actors, anthropologists, artists, dancers, designers, filmmakers, philosophers, playwrights, politicians, and scientists whose lives and works—over the course of twelve months—brought a seismic shift in the way we think, splitting the cultural world in two. Was this a matter of inevitability or of coincidence? That is for the reader of this romp, this hugely entertaining chronicle, to decide.
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Annus mirabilis seems a most feeble phrase to describe this year of Joyce and Eliot, Chaplin and Keaton, Hemingway and Lawrence, Stravinsky and Hindemith and so many more.Read Full Review of Constellation of Genius: 1922... | See more reviews from Kirkus
The text thus moves seamlessly from, say, the attempts of Hollywood farceur Charlie Chaplin to be taken seriously, to the low comedy of Marcel Proust challenging a rowdy to a duel in a Paris nightclub.Read Full Review of Constellation of Genius: 1922... | See more reviews from Guardian
Locked into his busy diary, he offers neither context for, analysis of nor argument about these two austere summits of Modernism..."Constellation of Genius" could have been a lively exploration of Modernist masters in the context of their time, but as it is, it is merely swamped by a barrage of facts and factlets.Read Full Review of Constellation of Genius: 1922... | See more reviews from WSJ online
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