For the Art Bell addict in the audience. Risible and sure to sell.

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MAGICIANS OF THE GODS

THE FORGOTTEN WISDOM OF EARTH'S LOST CIVILIZATION

Asteroids melted the poles! Baalbek was erected by “ancient and unknowable minds”! Everything we know is wrong!

Having dusted off long-debunked Von Däniken–isms in Fingerprints of the Gods (1995), Hancock aims for a similar audience in his latest, which works two large themes: we are the unknowing beneficiaries of an Atlantis-like disappeared civilization, and that civilization was swept under the sea thanks to a cataclysmic event. Catastrophism sells, and if read as one might an L. Ron Hubbard novel, Hancock’s tale is clunky but ingenious, breathless in its certainty that “the timeline of history taught in our schools and universities for the best part of the last hundred years can no longer stand.” It’s a mashup of Ignatius Donnelly and Dan Brown, an I-thought-this-and-I-unearthed-that tale of ersatz discovery. As scholarship, it’s cherry-picking among dubious facts and factoids that hinge on fixed chronologies: at exactly 9600 B.C.E., say, agriculture and architecture sprang forth. Hancock’s favorite rhetorical strategy is to disdainfully dismiss the careful efforts of the professoriat in favor of his own heterodoxical wonderfulness: “That is certainly how things look when viewed through the prism of ‘Egpytologic’—i.e. that special form of reasoning, with a built-in double standard, deployed only by Egyptologists.” So how did those Babylonians and Incas and proto-Hittites build their massive structures of monolith and marble? Well, setting aside the possibility that some long-inundated, advanced civilization supplied the know-how, the answer is one that any engineer would endorse: through a lot of hard work, a lot of trial and error, and a lot of time. Hancock prefers more miraculous answers, full of conjecture (“the Ancient Egyptians might have reached not only the Americas, but also Indonesia and Australia”) and spectacularly shameless but highly entertaining pseudoscience.

For the Art Bell addict in the audience. Risible and sure to sell.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04592-8

Page Count: 504

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2015

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

NIGHT

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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

THE WAY I HEARD IT

Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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