We commend to your attention the newly published City of the End of Things, an omnibus edition of three short books by Northrop Frye, J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Edward Togo Salmon originally published by Oxford in the 1960s and ’70s.
Frye remains well-known as one of Canada’s preeminent literary theorists, and Oppenheimer was of course the father of the atomic bomb. Salmon is less well-known except to people like me who have come across the Edward Togo Salmon Building on the McMaster University campus in Hamilton, Ont. — he was one of Canada’s most distinguished classicists and historians during the middle third of the 20th century.
The three brief books making up City of the End of Things were first presented as part of the Whidden Lecture Series at McMaster (a series which continues to this idea) and although they were first published more than a generation ago, they are in many ways as current as today’s headlines. Oppenheimer provides a clear introduction to some of the key issues of nuclear physics and muses upon the relationship between science and society; Frye considers the role of the arts in an increasingly commercialized world; and Salmon reflects on the factors contributing to the fall of empires. He takes the Roman and British Empires as his examples, but what he says is just as appropriate to the American Empire in today’s post-9/11 world.
Incidentally, OUP also publishes Abraham Pais’ biography of Oppenheimer.