Picks and Pans Review: The Origin

updated 09/29/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/29/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Irving Stone

The books of some brand-name authors—fiction or nonfiction, history or biography—leap onto best-seller lists the day they are published. Leon Uris, Irving Wallace and Irving Stone all produce what people love to buy. Reading their work is a different matter. As writers they are sincere, but sometimes humorless and plodding. Stone hit the big time with Lust for Life, but Van Gogh's painful story provided plenty of drama. With Charles Darwin in The Origin, Stone has an insurmountable problem. The book opens when Darwin is already 22, and still the author takes 700 more pages to re-create, in flat prose and stilted dialogue, the story of the man who observed that the best adapted of each species survive. There is no action after Darwin's voyage on the Beagle in the 1830s, and Stone is incapable of conveying the inner drama of the intellect. Early in The Origin, Darwin tells a visitor that his family reads books out loud and practices "what we call 'skipibus,' skipping over the dull parts." The same approach is recommended for this tome. Better still, just skip the whole boring thing. (Doubleday, $14.95)

From Our Partners