A Man of Misconceptions

A Man of Misconceptions

The Life of An Eccentric in An Age of Change

Book - 2012
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Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2012
ISBN: 9781594488719
Branch Call Number: ANF 943.041092 GLA
Characteristics: xvi, 333 p. : ill. ; 22 cm


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SkokieStaff_Steven Mar 05, 2018

As a lover of all kinds of curious learning, I tip my hat to Athanasius Kircher, seventeenth century polymath, devotee of esoteric knowledge, and the subject of John Glassie’s biography “A Man of Misconceptions: The Life of an Eccentric in an Age of Change.” Kircher would be better remembered today for his prodigious scholarship and voluminous writing if he were not wildly off the mark in just about every natural, historical, geographic, philological, or scientific subject he turned his attention to. A man of misconceptions indeed, he was also a man of exaggerations as his actual accomplishments pale before the accomplishments he claimed for himself and trumpeted before the world. (To name just one real accomplishment, he apparently invented the cat piano, not to be confused with the Keyboard Cat found on YouTube.) Still, he lived in interesting times and had a surprisingly adventurous life for so bookish a man, nearly losing his life in not one but two waterwheel mishaps. Glassie is a pleasure to read as he repeatedly pokes gentle fun at Kircher’s pretensions.

Dec 03, 2016

Books this scrupulously researched can prove mind numbing. I’ve been there; many times, having waded through fifty or so pages, I’ve set down books and found any number of reasons not to pick them up again; not so A Man of Misconceptions. I borrowed the book yesterday and finished it today.

It is both informative and entertaining. As I read, I found myself wondering about a very strange man, Athanasius Kircher. Was he a genius or a charlatan or both? Apparently, he and his writings created the same conundrum for many of his contemporaries: famous scholars of the 17th century. I recommend that you read this Umberto Eco-esque biography and have a go at figuring out the truth for yourself.

4.5 stars for John Glassie!

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