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River of Shadows

River of Shadows

A New York Times Notable Book

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism, The Mark Lynton History Prize, and the Sally Hacker Prize for the History of Technology

“A panoramic vision of cultural change” —The New York Times

Through the story of the pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge, the author of Orwell's Roses explores what it was about California in the late 19th-century that enabled it to become such a center of technological and cultural innovation

The world as we know it today began in California in the late 1800s, and Eadweard Muybridge had a lot to do with it. This striking assertion is at the heart of Rebecca Solnit’s new book, which weaves together biography, history, and fascinating insights into art and technology to create a boldly original portrait of America on the threshold of modernity. The story of Muybridge—who in 1872 succeeded in capturing high-speed motion photographically—becomes a lens for a larger story about the acceleration and industrialization of everyday life. Solnit shows how the peculiar freedoms and opportunities of post–Civil War California led directly to the two industries—Hollywood and Silicon Valley—that have most powerfully defined contemporary society.