electric light


Today, electricity is so inextricably woven into the fabric of our lives that we don’t even think about it: We flick a switch and a light comes on — until, as millions in the Northeast discovered during Hurricane Sandy, it doesn’t, and you learn that it can take days or even weeks to restore the complex electric grid inaugurated more than a hundred years ago. One of the many pleasures of “Age of Edison,” Ernest Freeberg’s engaging history of the spread of electricity throughout the United States, is that he captures the excitement and wonder of those early days, when “a machine that could create enough cheap and powerful light to hold the night at bay” promised “liberation from one of the primordial limits imposed by nature on the human will.” Freeberg sketches electric light’s transformative effect on everything from factory work and home life to shopping and entertainment, painting vivid pictures of this brave new world in evocative prose.

more from Wendy Smith at the LA Times here.