More Newton and the Counterfeiter action: BBC and Guardian edition.
I’ve been almost completely remiss in continuing both my diary of Newton and the Counterfeiter,(Amazon, Powells, Barnes and Noble,Indiebound and across the pond at Amazon.co.uk, Waterstones, Blackwells, Borders,John Smith & Son). and in keeping up to date with the recent flood of reviews. There is a lot I want to talk about those reviews — thanks to many, especially on the web, who’ve taken notice of the book and written for love of what they found there, good and bad — and some disputes I want to start, by way of talking about a topic of surpassing interest to me: the information/culture crevasse we’re now straddling as the old review world collapses, but a web-based book culture has yet to reach the point where it can take on the matching of readers to books with the reach the old media possessed.
That’s all by the by the by. Here I just want to let anyone interested know that BBC Radio 4 has produced, and now finished broadcasting, a five part audio series (75 minutes in all) that is an abridgment of Newton and the Counterfeiter. It’s five part iteration can be found here, and when the podcast version gets up, I’ll post that link too.
And to make my Labor Day weekend sweet, I checked my Google alerts just now (yes, I am that pathetic) to find that the novelist/literary critic-historian/writing pedagogue Rebecca Stott had lovely things to say about the book in The Guardian. With that, I believe all the national dailies and Sunday papers in Britain (except The Sun, for whose inattention I am grateful, as I am that of News of the Week) have weighed in, and I’ll be noting others over the next week or so. But Stott had such nice things to say that I couldn’t resist anticipating those roundups. Money quotes:
In Levenson’s masterly hands, Chaloner emerges as an audacious criminal genius, a creature of a London described as a series of interconnected webs, a “swaying, shouting, shitting din – exhilarating, terrifying and incomprehensible”….
This is novelistic history writing of the best kind. Admittedly, the connections that Levenson makes – such as suggesting that Newton’s fury was driven by his conviction that counterfeiting was a perversion of alchemical practices – are sometimes overstretched. But the portrait he paints of a seemingly impenetrable London underworld and a genius making his way fearlessly into it in pursuit of a stable currency is mesmerising.
I’ll take that with my morning coffee any day.