Consistently insightful exploration of how we think about how we think. The case histories incorporated here offer fascinating and informative reading by themselves, but Candland (Psychology and Animal Behavior/Bucknell University), who occasionally writes for The New Yorker, surrounds each one with lively commentary, observation, and wit, making his narrative a treasury of insights into how, over time, we have thought about who and what we are. Starting with the best-known cases of feral children—Victor, the Wild Boy of Aveyron; the Wolf Girls of India; and Kaspar Hauser— the author gives us the primary documents and eyewitness accounts that allow him to explore what it was that people saw when they looked at these celebrated individuals. Dr. J.M.G. Itard—Victor's Boswell, Skinner, and Miracle Worker—carried the intellectual baggage of his time, including the idea of the ``noble savage,'' and geared Victor's education toward coaxing out what was innately human in the boy; a century later, the Wolf Girls' parents undertook to suppress what they considered to be their children's underlying animal nature. In each case, Candland demonstrates that most of the conclusions reached about each of these feral children were little more than projections of what we wanted to believe about human nature. He then explores four contemporary psychological ``modalities''—``The Mental Ladder''; psychoanalysis; behaviorism; and phenomenology—and shows how each of these schemata is among our most powerful tools for understanding, analyzing, and finding our place within the world. The remainder of the text surveys the history of teaching apes to communicate with humans, exploring how our feelings about our relationship to these apparent parodies of ourselves have shaped this endeavor. Both a celebration of our endless desire to communicate across any boundary and a documentation of our tendency to end up talking only to ourselves. Original and entertaining popular science. (Seventy photos, 19 drawings)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-507468-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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