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THE WRITING OF THE GODS

THE RACE TO DECODE THE ROSETTA STONE

A largely engaging yet sometimes pedestrian look at language and the limits of what we can understand.

The story of the Rosetta Stone’s discovery and decoding.

Today, the Rosetta Stone occupies such a prominent role in public interest—not unlike Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids—that its actual significance can easily get lost amid the crowds of tourists clamoring for a view. In his latest book, Dolnick, former chief science writer for the Boston Globe who has written for a wide variety of publications, offers a strong corrective, describing not only how the Rosetta Stone was found, but also how, over several long decades, it was deciphered. He creates an engaging portrait of the two men—Jean-François Champollion and Thomas Young—who were mainly responsible for cracking the code of Egyptian hieroglyphs. For centuries, those hieroglyphs had been unreadable. Dolnick provides an exciting narrative of the journey to legibility, and he effectively describes why it was such an important—and excruciating—process. However, the author sometimes goes awry when he strains too hard for wittiness—e.g., describing ancient Alexandria as “Paris to Rome’s Podunk.” Worse are the banalities that stud Dolnick’s analyses. “If you pull the camera back far enough,” he writes, “all cultures look the same. People meet and fall in love; they boast and puff themselves up; they mock their rivals; they pray to their god, or a host of gods; they fear death. The details make all the difference.” Accessibility is no crime, of course, but the author’s desire to make the book accessible to everyone leads him to oversimplify his subject with labored asides: “Imagine how much harder crossword puzzles would be if the answers could be in any language including dead ones.” Despite these flaws, Dolnick makes complicated linguistic challenges not only comprehensible, but also especially vivid for readers new to the subject, and, as in his previous books, his enthusiasm is infectious.

A largely engaging yet sometimes pedestrian look at language and the limits of what we can understand.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-9893-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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