Highly concentrated amalgamation of doomsday-theory debunking and Mayan ethos.

A leading Mayanist scholar and Mesoamerican art professor (Univ. of Texas), Stuart began appreciating Maya culture at an early age during trips to jungle ruins with his parents, lifelong experts. Staunchly dedicated, the author has collected field research and documented the evolution of native kingdoms predating the Mesoamerican civilization—present-day southern Mexico and northern Central America—and the classic eras that established it, along with deciphering much of the coded Maya hieroglyphic script. He expounds on this research in dense, informative chapters about how the Maya society developed into a deeply mystical, animistic collective, invoking their notions of timekeeping and day-naming, cosmology and science. Also relevant to the author’s research was how their 260-day calendar was intricately designed and calculated and what the Maya people considered cosmic “deep time.” Stuart adroitly dispels common misconceptions that put the Mayan culture in an “exotic”, “alien” light to outsiders, which, to him, constitutes a “major cultural misunderstanding.” Though he appreciates the enthusiasm of the “guru” mentality, the author openly dismisses the recent ominous hype cultivated by New Age writers like John Major Jenkins and others who’ve analyzed the Maya calendar and its perceived dire consequences for the world at large. This is “complete nonsense,” the author writes, and he goes on to dispense a vast and illuminating chronicle of the Maya people and their fascinating cultural significance. While much of Stuart’s scholarly interpretation borders on textbook analysis, even he confesses that a healthy amount of his personalized conjecture might be viewed as “half-baked” at its early developmental stage. The author deeply examines the core beliefs and the intricate written languages of the Maya civilization and seeks to convey a better understanding of not only its culture and history, but how it correlates to the overblown media buzz about the Earth’s hypothesized demise in 2012. Chockablock with facts, graphs and illustrations—supreme fodder for specialists but somewhat impenetrable for the casual reader.


Pub Date: May 17, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-52726-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2011

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


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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