Humans are makers, the author argues persuasively in this illuminating book, in need of renewed connection to the...

CRÆFT

AN INQUIRY INTO THE ORIGINS AND TRUE MEANING OF TRADITIONAL CRAFTS

Tracing human existence from prehistory on, a historian celebrates resourcefulness and skill.

British archaeologist and medievalist Langlands (Medieval History/Swansea Univ.), presenter of the BBC series Victorian Farm and Edwardian Farm, makes his literary debut with a delightful, informative melding of memoir and history. Like Ruth Goodman did in her books How to be a Victorian (2014) and How to be a Tudor (2016), Langlands conveys the reality of daily life in earlier times, focusing especially on “physical adeptness, strength and fitness” along with hard-won wisdom about materials and techniques, all components of cræft. He believes that society today is “going backwards,” relying on machines that have rendered us “lazy, stupid, desensitised and disengaged.” On his journey of discovery, Langlands finds evidence of craftiness in museums, such as the Museum of Welsh Life, where he investigated beekeeping; and an Icelandic farmstead museum containing implements and artifacts of daily life: a cornucopia of tools and gear, along with “skilfully made baskets, chests and trunks” to hold them. Much of what he learned came from his own determined efforts. “As is often the case with my experimental historical crafts addiction,” he admits as he faced the challenge of making a thatched roof, “one extremely long and arduous task leads to another extremely long and arduous task.” The author discloses the complex processes involved in creating items we take for granted: woolen fabric, for example, requires an understanding of “how fleeces translate into fibres, how fibres translate into yarns, how both respond to dyes,” and how yarn becomes fabric for particular uses. The tanning of hides into leather is similarly complicated, with multiple steps of cleaning, preserving, and drying. Farming, haying, weaving, basketry, and boat-making are some of the crafts Langlands describes in fascinating detail as he travels through time and place. He regrets that workmanship is no longer revered: “we have become detached from making,” he writes, “and it isn’t a good state for us to be in.”

Humans are makers, the author argues persuasively in this illuminating book, in need of renewed connection to the intelligence and ingenuity of craft.

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-63590-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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