By Joseph A. Amato
University of California Press, 289 pages, $34.95
“Surfaces are the boundaries of both natural and human environments.”
Reviewers occasionally come upon books that are very tough to review. Surfaces: A History by historian J.A. Amato falls into this category. The book is a massive scholastic study with frequent superscripts referring to extensive twenty-five-page notes at the end. The writing is not an easy read even for scientists; long, wordy sentences, use of difficult words and lack of focus prevent the reader to concentrate what the author is attempting to convey. In fact, lack of focus characterizes the entire treatise in spite of Amato’s organization into distinct chapters. The book ends with a lengthy conclusion. The main subject doesn’t seem to be history but just about anything else: mostly philosophy, also science, physiology, human interaction, anthropology, biology, evolution, technology, art, and so on. Numerous quotes, even poems, are interspersed with the text and some black-and-white sketches often without obvious reference to the subject. Amato frequently refers to surfaces but those references appear to be forced. The writing is thought-provoking if you are able to immerse yourself into the subjects that change quickly from paragraph to paragraph. The chapters loosely progress from ancient to modern history ending in discussions of twentieth-century inventions and technology.
Reviewed by George Erdosh