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The Human Touch

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The Human Touch: Our Part in the Creation of the Universe is a fascinating search for an understanding of philosophy, cosmology, language and the big questions of life, from Michael Frayn, the award-winning author of Spies, Skios and Headlong.

About the Author

Michael Frayn was born in London in 1933 and began his career as a journalist on the Guardian and the Observer. His novels include Towards the End of the Morning, The Trick of It, A Landing on the Sun and Spies. Headlong was shortlisted for the 1999 Booker Prize, Whitbread Novel Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction. His thriteen plays range from Noises Off to Copenhagen, and he has translated a number of works, mostly from Russian. He is married to the biographer and critic Claire Tomalin.


London-based novelist, playwright, and self-proclaimed amateur philosopher Frayn (Headlong) tackles the big questions of human understanding in this profound work. Beginning with a description of the continual "traffic" between humans and the universe, Frayn shapes a cohesive introduction to philosophy that includes elements of science, determinism, physics, mathematics, psychology, linguistics, and epistemology. Throughout, he makes great use of articulate and witty examples to supply answers (or, more often, lines of thought that provide paths to satisfying nonanswers) without leaving the general reader too far behind. In the end, Frayn succeeds in peeling back the layers of both the external and the internal thought processes of humans, and he conveys an illuminating proposition that establishes human intellect as a distinct, necessary mediator of our universe. At times the content is overly tedious, but given the subject matter and depth, this is easily overlooked. Recommended for medium and large public and academic collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/06.]-Jason Moore, Madison Cty. Lib. Syst., MS Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

British playwright and novelist Frayn has nursed a serious interest in philosophy since studying it at Cambridge in the 1950s, a fact that won't surprise fans of the writer best known for his 1982 farce, Noises Off, and award-winning 1998 drama, Copenhagen. This bold, original spin on the role of the human imagination in the construction of reality reflects the same robust intellectual curiosity, keen powers of observation and ingenious sense of humor that characterize all his work. Ranging over science, mathematics, philosophy, psychology and linguistics-with a grasp that would be admirable in a professional but is astounding in a self-confessed amateur-Frayn rigorously exposes the human scaffolding propping up what we like to see as a detached, neatly ordered universe. Gazing both outwardly at the indeterminate cosmos suggested by relativity and quantum mechanics, and inwardly at the slippery constructions of consciousness and our sense of self, he focuses on the narrative compulsion that arises from the continual "traffic" between human beings and their ever-changing, ephemeral surroundings. Frayn's dogged unraveling of determinist assumptions and the occasionally mind-bending minutiae of theories, arguments and counterarguments can get taxing, despite lucid and witty prose. But Frayn's ecstatic embrace of a human-made universe is a fascinatingly persuasive ride. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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