An academic's meandering foray into the realms of the preliterate. Sanders (English and the History of Ideas/Pitzer College) fears for the fate of the printed word. Beginning with a history of literacy, he presents the ancient Greeks as the primary example of a people with a limited, verbal culture who flowered with their adaptation of the Semitic alphabet, which he contends not only allowed for superior intergenerational communication but also for the critical thinking that made Greek philosophy and ethics possible. Moving from human history to human development, the author posits that infants and people deprived of language cannot perceive in the abstract and are incapable of morality. He skates on thinner ice when he suggests that people stuck in verbal cultures, especially the functional illiterates of our inner cities, are a mindless, amoral mob. Here the humanities professor shows gaps in his hard and social science reading: Few of America's 70 million illiterates display the conscienceless violence of the sociopaths he fearfully describes. Displaying tinges of Eurocentrism when diagnosing the social problems of certain hyphenated Americans, Sanders also links illiteracy to feminism- -mothers not staying home to feed their children constant verbal stimulation. ``Among humans only women educate'' is a line that would resonate better were the author less obsessed with unproven theories about breast-feeding and the development of literacy. A volley fired at technology in general and computers specifically reads: ``Word processors have turned everyone into ghostwriters, so that technology...has sucked the very essence out of life.'' While TV and video games have pedagogic limitations, the author does not successfully demonstrate why trashy novels are better than classic films, why the confines of grammar are less stifling than the parameters of a video game, or why a TV show represents ``a shift from the human to the technical.'' A few pearls among the paranoia, but this flawed paean to literacy is as awkward as its title.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-41711-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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