Weinberger says of the I Ching, “its fragments and aphorisms are meant to be dipped into at random.” One might say the same...

THE GHOSTS OF BIRDS

The accomplished essayist, editor, and translator marries a thirst for other worlds with a questing intellect in this challenging menagerie of writings, some previously published.

Weinberger (The Wall, the City, and the World, 2014, etc.) opens with a sufficiently engaging revision of the Adam and Eve story and attendant superstitions but then launches into a rather cryptic continuation of his serial essay An Elemental Thing, which, despite its often elegant poetics, may confound anyone who has not read the earlier installments. It may puzzle even if one has, given the section's preference for the esoteric, the ethereal, and the enigmatic. However, the author saves it with brief but arresting curiosities from a selection of world subcultures. A writer of impressive, sometimes-daunting erudition, Weinberger offsets this first section's forays into the obscure with measured, eye-opening considerations of subjects ranging from incarnations of the Buddha and the I Ching to the literature of the city and Mongol history, including a devastating critique of an exhibit at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. East Indian and Mexican poetry likewise get their due. These exhaustively researched pieces are richly detailed and unfailingly interesting. Contrastingly unrestrained yet telling is his scorched-earth review of George W. Bush's Decision Points. As an aesthete and literary “archaeologist,” Weinberger also exhumes and recovers—or at least re-examines—the artistic reputations of a number of half-forgotten poets, authors, and intellectuals who were lions in their days. This is done with admirable sobriety and finesse and without a trace of hagiography, though for some, it may tend to bog down in minutiae and oddity.

Weinberger says of the I Ching, “its fragments and aphorisms are meant to be dipped into at random.” One might say the same of this book, which dazzles as a repository of knowledge and interpretation but otherwise may be an acquired taste.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2618-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more