Review: The Kingdom of Speech by Tom Wolfe

This book promises a great deal, but, for the most part, fails to deliver. The glimpse Wolfe offers into age-old feuds is titillating at first, but quickly becomes trite. In focusing on the details of the lives of the people that pioneered evolution and speech theory, The Kingdom of Speech removes itself from the bigger picture. When Wolfe finally decides to get on with explaining his ultimate point, he spends a sad few pages at the end describing how speech sets us apart. There is nothing new, nothing fresh, nothing exciting about that observation, nor is Wolfe the first to speculate that we owe much of humanity’s success to speech.

 

Putting aside those admittedly major flaws, Wolfe does manage to bring historical figures such as Darwin and Wallace into full color, and speaks about both with a frankness and freshness that few texts dare to. Wolfe is undoubtedly a talented writer, and while he missed the mark on the majority of this book, there is still value to be found within its pages.

 

Overall, I would not recommend this book, but I would not warn you to stay away either. This fast-paced read is largely hit or miss, and just a little dry at times, but consider it nevertheless.

 

 

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