a blog with cultural bulimia.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The book I'm reading.

 If you like biographies, like Mr. DS does (and even if you don't), you must read Wings of Madness : Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight. More than just a biography, it is a portrait of the world at the beggining of the 20th century.
Almost unknown today except in his native Brazil (where he is a revered figure), Alberto Santos-Dumont was known throughout the world as 'a maverick among contemporary aeronauts.' Obsessed with the idea of flight from an early age, Santos-Dumont (1873-1932) was an eccentric genius whose inherited wealth allowed him to live in luxury in fin-de-siecle Paris, at first working on ballooning. After designing small, cigar-shaped, engine-powered vehicles, which he used for everything from traveling around Paris to circling the Eiffel Tower, he soon became one of the best-known men in the city. Later he built 'the world's first sports plane.' Hoffman expertly recaptures from the historical dustbin the many facets of this unique character who befriended the Rothschilds and Cartiers, ran in the same crowd as Marcel Proust and devoted his life to a singular passion unmatched even by the obsessive Wright Brothers during the early days of aviation, 'a time when the vast majority of Europeans and Americans had not yet traveled along the ground in an automobile.'