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Why I Don't Like Martin Seymour-Smith

I'm reading a book called The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written, by Martin Seymour-Smith. I have been for a few years now. I get so mad at the author that every once in a while I have to put the book down and walk away from it for a while. Once I even buried it in a drawer for a year. He is the most arrogant and pretentious author I have ever encountered. I'm up to the 86th book and by golly I'm going to finish it but I wanted share two passages ...

From his chapter on Einstein's Relativity...

Stephen Hawking -- Einstein's successor in the eyes of many -- is, at that level, an even simpler man, quite without Einstein's gift (or perhaps wish) for lucidity. A Brief History of Time does not make sense as it stands, whereas Relativity makes a fair stab at doing so. Hawking's cosmology is very muddled indeed, and he is pretentious when he tries to write about it in nonscientific terms, whatever the future will say about his status as just a scientist -- and this will not be as enthusiastic about him as the general public is now.

Only a pretentious person has the audacity to call someone else pretentious. Especially someone like Hawking who's brain is probably a billion times the size off Seymour-Smith's.

And from the chapter on Vilfredo Pareto's The Mind and Society...

"T.S. Eliot, a very minor poet and plagiarist once taken as "great" (which he wanted to be), once memorably expressed the near-commonplace notion that reality is unpleasant: "Mankind cannot bear much reality." So Pareto is unpleasant to have around. He is probably not in paradise. But his account of how not to reach paradise is inimitable and even precious -- and it is often very funny. It remains to add that he was, personally, always a generous and considerate man."

So even when he seems to like someone, to me, he had to say something negative. Based on all the rest of his book I think he wants to be taken as "great" and should be concerned whether he will be in Pareto's paradise.

Anyway, despite his overblown opinions, I'm enjoying reading the minibiographies and summaries of their books. He also puts them in a bit of a historical/political perspective. So I will finish this stupid book. But I will probably get mad 14 more times before I do.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 18th, 2005 04:47 am (UTC)
*snorts* I guess poor ole Seymour didn't quite UNDERSTAND all the sciency stuff, and so threw a tantrum in his book.
Sep. 20th, 2005 05:54 am (UTC)
ha! you are probably right! i was wondering how he suddenly became an expert physicist/astronomer.

i was extremely pleased when i found a typo in his book. i know it was the editor's fault and not his, but it made me happy that mr knows-it-all has "way be" instead of "may be" in one of his essays. then again, i have a typo in my rant about him (off instead of of somewhere in there, i think) so i can't be too critical.
Sep. 21st, 2005 03:08 pm (UTC)
I remember a book I read on Victorian attitudes towards religion and the author devotes a chapter to George Bernard Shaw for apparently no reason other than to say how overrated he thinks Shaw is.
Sep. 23rd, 2005 06:53 pm (UTC)
ha! well, i suppose they are their books and they can put whatever they want in them. but it sure seems like all it does is make themselves look bad and have no effect on Hawking or Shaw.

when i publish my book of poems i'm going to have a chapter dedicated to the overinflated value cooks give to onions. i hate onions.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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