Picks and Pans Review: Late Night Thoughts on Listening to Mahler's Ninth Symphony

updated 12/12/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/12/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Lewis Thomas

With this third collection of his short pieces, Dr. Thomas—a New York City research pathologist and hospital administrator—confirms his eminence as a uniquely stimulating essayist. In the chapter "The Corner of the Eye," he writes, "It immensely pleases a human being to see something never seen before, even more to learn something never known before, most of all to think something never thought before." Listing his own seven wonders of the world, Lewis concludes that the greatest wonder of all is the human race, "provided we do not kill ourselves off." In the title chapter, Lewis says that before the nuclear age, Mahler's Ninth Symphony seemed an "open acknowledgment of death...a quiet celebration of the tranquillity connected to the process." Now the symphony speaks to him of "the dying of everything, the end of humanity." Many of these pieces deal with the seemingly unthinkable, but they are bitter medicine worth taking, (Viking, $12.95)

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