Three Scientists Walk into a Henge

The Stonehenge Letters, by Harry Karlinsky, (Coach House Books), 256 pages, pub. June 3, 2014, available in paperback and electronic formats

The Stonehenge Letters is a remarkable creature: sort of a hybrid history/science mockumentary. I have never come across another book like it. I’ve read short pieces of science satire or humor, but Karlinsky sets up his joke and maintains it through two hundred and fifty-six engaging pages.

The premise behind the book is this: After establishing the Nobel prizes, shortly before his death Nobel funded a one-time prize for the “solving of the Stonehenge mystery.” The competitors for this prize were limited to the first decade of Nobel prize winners, a group that included the likes of Marie Curie, Rudyard Kipling, and Ivan Pavlov.

The book is written as carefully produced non-fiction and includes a variety of forms. There’s a narrative of the discovery of this competition by a psychiatrist searching the Nobel archives in an attempt to understand why Freud was never granted this honor. The book is peppered with documents: wills, photos, and the like. And the fun only increases when it moves on to texts of the articles written by the various Nobel laureates who competed for the prize.

The fun of this book lies in its seriousness. If it weren’t for the subject matter at hand, one would be hard pressed to accept the fact that it’s fiction.

October 16 2014 06:41 am | Uncategorized

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