An outsider’s infusion of significance and structure into a world that would be beautiful, if only he allowed it to speak...

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ON THE TEA ROAD

A JOURNEY INTO MONGOLIAN LIFE AND CULTURE

Bamana’s travel book explores the nomadic pastoralism of Mongolia through its residents’ relationship with tea.

In his debut, Bamana sets out on a journey with the single-minded purpose of seeking out the Tea Road—the trade route between China and Western Russia that passed through Mongolia beginning in the 17th century—and visiting locals along the way, thereby soaking up traditional Mongolian culture through the lens of its tea practices. The book bumps along with him, dusted with some sketchy, impressionistic Mongolian history and sociology and musings on the country’s globalization. He presents some compelling insights into the nomadic culture of Mongolia, and, of course, tea. For instance, the matron of the family typically starts each morning in the ger, or yurt, by boiling milk tea for her family and offering a delicate libation to honor the deities of nature by sprinkling tea in the four cardinal directions. It’s an elegant concept, but Bamana’s lens overexposes what he sees, and readers are left longing for a more grounded experience. The guiding principle of the book is metaphor—tea is catalyst, symbol and vehicle—but the abstraction leaves readers never feeling quite anchored, never fully present, which is crucial for a travel narrative. There’s an adventure in there somewhere, but the author mostly glosses over it to get to the parts about tea. It’s also difficult to get over Bamana’s tendency, in certain instances, to present his observations or casual interviews as hard fact. There are some moments of inspiration when he loses himself in the sublimity of his surroundings—an enchanting description of the unique bounding of time and seemingly endless space on the steppes; a reflection on Mongolian spirituality, of nature as a portal to the sacred. He should allow himself to become distracted more often. In general, Bamana’s devotion to his theme takes him on a roundabout path that ends by describing the prosaic with unnecessary complexity.

An outsider’s infusion of significance and structure into a world that would be beautiful, if only he allowed it to speak for itself.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1461009580

Page Count: 218

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 9, 2011

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

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.

COLUMBINE

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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