A Review of "Moments Captured," Steve Cohen, Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley

November 30, 2012

the first pages, always so important to me,are in fine, sturdy intelligent prose. That gave me the confidence and the incentive to move on. And move on we did, Seidman and I, into a marvelous tale, engagingly told, with humor, a dash of bawdiness, and no small amount of historical fact and context. We moved through a grand historical drama: the building of the great transcontinental railroad over and through the winter Sierra, and also, gracefully and contextually, the low-down on the shenanigans of how Leland Stanford built the railroad and bilked the government. We also moved on through the the San Francisco life of one of the most splendid female characters in an American historical novel, Seidman's Holly, or rather Muybridge's Holly: smart, strong, rich, determined, a very early feminist, a very early representation of a woman deeply, and without complex, into the enjoyment of her sexuality and sex life. And also, the central axis of the book, the life of Muybridge, photographer extraordinaire, and how he conceived and engineered the famous series of photos (for Stanford) of how to prove that a horse raises all four hoofs at once. It was the first time motion had been captured. he was a major figure in the revolution of photography. All in all a fine and fun book to read -- and it goes up beyond fine and fun, while losing nothing of the pleasure, into something to learn and think about. Very strongest recommendation. Solved a good part of my Christmas list question.

Steve Cohen

Selected Works

A review of Seidman's "Moments Captured" that appeared in "Curled Up with a Good Book" in early December 2012
There are indelible characters, both historical and fictional: the tireless experimenter Muybridge; the impassioned feminist Holly Hughes, a gifted dancer and strong-minded feminist; Denise Faveraux, Holly’s friend and sometime companion, a prostitute with a fast ironic mind and the hard-won knowledge of how to protect herself from the profession’s worst nightmare, disease; Leland Stanford, the master builder California ex-Governor whose transcontinental ambitions conflict with Holly’s commitment to female equality; Jacques Fauconier, the flamboyant self-assured French sometime lover of Holly; Samuel Montague, the ingenious chief engineer of the Central Pacific who provides Muybridge with the decisive element in his quest to capture the trotting horse; Collis Ward, Stanford’s sneaky snaky assistant; Thomas Alva Edison, the brilliant inventor/promoter who cleverly cashes in on Muybridge’s motion picture project. There are cameo appearances by historical/fictional individuals, including the photographer Matthew Brady, the painter Jean-Leon Gerome and Walt Whitman. A teeming, multitudinous canvas, as crammed with life and conflict as the Gilded Age itself.
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