I Am Because You Are – Book review

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You might assume that an anthology celebrating the centenary of Albert Einstein’s famous General Theory of Relativity might be a little too deeply rooted in its heavily theoretical source material. Yet in reading this marvellous little book, it soon becomes clear that I Am Because You Are (Freight Books)is the kind of anthology that helps even the least scientifically-minded reader understand the mind-blowing, reality-altering beauty of physics.

This feat alone should grant this book deserved accolades – for too often it seems we are content to sit within increasingly closed worlds, and it so often falls to literature to open these portals through space and time, to capture our imaginations and take us on journeys we perhaps didn’t think were possible – opening up whole new realities, worlds and ideas.

Indeed, it is thanks to I Am Because You Are that, as readers, we are able to encounter fantastical circuses and impossible acrobatic stunts; brought into intimate scenarios of family lives struck down by familial break down and depression; encouraged to question our response as we watch “rising temperatures and new weather patterns [the] oceans evaporate and the atmosphere wither”; asked to contemplate whether we are simply “talking about the end of time”; we are able to discover delightful new turns of phrase that leave us asking whether we are “wise beyond our years or too immature to appreciate terror”; and we are even forced to consider whether we might, in actuality, all be rabbits – or was that a pygmy marmoset?

Such is the display of writerly talent on display here that we are reminded that, as with space and time, the possibilities of literature will likely never cease to astound, amaze and inspire us.

Yet the success of this collection of fiction, poetry and non-fiction goes beyond this. Largely, this is down to the excellent variety of writing on show from a wide-range of authors, and thanks to the incredible depth each individual story works on.

This depth stretches from the microscopic to the macroscopic, variously seen through intimate, tightly focused stories to wider reaching, expansive pieces that look at grand ideas. Yet each are original and provide gripping insight into the universe as a wide, grand space, and also into our own worlds and universes we create for ourselves. The existentialist themes that are found throughout the anthology of course look to continue Einstein’s greatest quest – to help us better understand our place within the universe, and our place within time. Fittingly, the book often leaves us asking more questions than it gives us answers for.

There are 23 pieces of writing here, from 23 writers. Naturally, we have 23 different points of views and 23 ways of approaching narrative, of using language, 23 different voices; 23 different styles.

Each deserves its own review and description – but that is perhaps for another day, since this review is about the collection as a whole. Fortunately, this is neither a case of the collection being more than the sum of its parts; nor of one or two stories or poems overshadowing everything else. The two work in perfect equilibrium and balance together. This feat, one might be tempted to suggest, perhaps is an example of Einstein’s theory in practice, and even to use that rather hammy and corny phrase, “it’s all relative”.

This is not to say that every piece is excellent or without fault, and nor is it to guarantee that they will all be to your liking; but isn’t that the point of an anthology? For their part, the editors – Tania Hershman and Pippa Goldschmidt – have skilfully created a place to showcase original and unique thinking, all through the prism of Einstein’s greatest theory. Their precise placing of each piece is extremely deft, and it’s charming to appreciate the way the structure of the anthology allows ideas and emotions to build up inside of you, only for these to change suddenly as a new piece of writing takes you down some entirely unexpected route or direction.

To badly paraphrase the great man himself (for the purposes of this review): Imagination will take you from A-B, but this book will take you anywhere you want it to. To put it another way; you won’t be quite the same after reading it.

  • To order ‘I Am Because You Are’ for £8.99, go to http://freightbooks.co.uk/i-am-becasue-you-are-edited-by-pippa-goldschmidt-and-tania-hershman.html 
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New anthology celebrates Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity

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In November 1915 Albert Einstein published his now world famous General Theory of Relativity. It introduced to physics new concepts, such as the curvature of space-time and black holes, and it made extraordinary predictions about the bending of light around massive objects. I Am Because You Are is a timely collection of new fiction and non-fiction from novelists and science writers, all inspired by the theme of Relativity. Each contributor treats the subject in their own unique way. The results are charming, witty, sometimes challenging but always accessible, presenting complex science themes in imaginative, easy-to-understand and highly entertaining ways.

Contributors include novelists Andrew Crumey, Dilys Rose and Neil Williamson, alongside popular science communicators Pedro Ferreira and Jo Dunkley. Edited by acclaimed, award-winning writers Pippa Goldschmidt and Tania Hershman, I Am Because You Are will be the perfect vehicle for both press and public to engage with this landmark centenary.

Michael Brooks, author of 13 Things That Don’t Make Sense, said of the new anthology: “Sparkling with wit and originality, making a virtue out of the frail humanity of science, these stories perfectly reflect the breathtaking poetry of Einstein’s greatest theory. Enlightening, entertaining and sometimes moving, this collection is a beautiful celebration of relativity’s influence on our cultural landscape.”

This collection of fiction and non-fiction is perhaps the way to mark the hugely important 100th anniversary of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. And it’s publication by Freight Books taps into massive interest in popular science through imaginative writing.

About the editors

Tania Hershman spent 13 years as a science journalist, writing for publications such as WIRED and NewScientist, before becoming a full-time fiction writer. Her first story collection, The White Road and Other Stories (Salt, 2008), was commended by the judges of the 2009 Orange Award for New Writers. Her second, My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions, was published in May 2012 by Tangent Books. Tania’s stories and poems have won various prizes, been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, been widely published and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and 4. Her debut poetry chapbook will be published in Feb 2016.

Pippa Goldschmidt’s novel The Falling Sky (Freight, 2012) was runner-up in the Dundee International Book Prize. She has a PhD in astronomy and worked as an astronomer. She has worked as a writer-in-residence at several academic institutions including most recently the Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg in Germany. Her short stories, poetry and non-fiction have been broadcast on Radio 4 and published in a wide variety of publications including Gutter, New Writing Scotland and the New York Times. Her story collection The Need for Better Regulation of Outer Space was published by Freight in May 2015.