Behind the speech synthesiser, a wit

20:30, Mar 23 2014
Southland Times book review
BOOK REVIEW: My Brief History

BOOK REVIEW: My Brief History
By Stephen Hawking (Bantam Press, RRP $35)

There's a lot more to uber-genius Stephen Hawking than a big brain and a debilitating illness, and this memoir offers a glimpse into what makes the man tick.

This is the first book Professor Hawking has written entirely on his own since the groundbreaking A Brief History of Time back in 1988, which managed to sell more than 10 million copies while teaching us about the big bang theory, black holes and light cones.

And that is the "beginning of the universe" big bang theory, not the television programme. Although, Professor Hawking did show off his sense of humour at last year's San Diego Comic-Con, recording himself reciting the show's theme song for the opening of the event.

The now-72-year-old was diagnosed with motor neurone disease at the age of 21 and given a likely life expectancy of just two years. He has defied the odds while sharing his genius with the world.

I suppose it's a testament to his resilience that he hasn't let what would be a devastating diagnosis for most of us stop him in his endeavours and doesn't dwell on that in this book.

Instead, he paints a picture of a quirky upbringing, academic adventures, a trio of marriages and a trio of children and a life as full as any of us could possibly imagine, with or without a life- changing illness.

Written in the first person, this book has an intimate feel and because it lives up to its title by being quite brief, it isn't bogged down with descriptions. However, it is a fascinatingly honest and often witty look at the life of a man who is usually intensely private.