A bold revision of ancient history that is well worth reading, even if its conclusions sometimes overshoot the evidence.

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BEFORE THE FLOOD

DRAMATIC NEW EVIDENCE THAT THE BIBLICAL FLOOD WAS A REAL EVENT

A blend of archaeological fact and anthropological speculation by Australian historian Wilson.

The flood as described in Genesis would have brought the world sea level up 6,000 feet, and establishing it as a real event would entail, as Wilson concedes, a “complete revision of all the basic understandings underpinning modern-day geology.” Wilson is not proposing anything so drastic. Rather, he wants to connect a set of flood myths that occurred among ancient peoples in the swathe of land between Greece and India with the recent discovery that the present composition and size of the Black Sea can be dated to 5600 b.c., when the land barrier between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea crumbled. If it fell in one blow, the resulting flood would have caused the fresh-water Black Sea to rise for two years, flooding about 60,000 square miles. Both the extent and speed of the flood would have been catastrophic for humans living around the water. Wilson describes the fascinating underwater explorations of submarine archaeologist Robert Ballard, who has found signs of human habitation seventy kilometers out from the present Black Sea shoreline. Who were they? Wilson believes they are congruent with the goddess-worshipping inhabitants of an Anatolian site, Çatal Hüyük. That site dates from before 6000 b.c. and shows its people to have been sophisticated agriculturalists and weavers. Wilson speculates that when the site was abandoned around, probably because of a climate change, the inhabitants emigrated to the shores of the Black Sea, then a fresh-water lake. Escaping the flood, these people seeded civilization around the Mediterranean, spreading flood myths. Wilson backs up his idea with some dubious sources, such as Robert Graves’s The White Goddess (1948). More troubling, though, is Wilson’s construing of myth solely in terms of “collective memory,” an anthropologically naïve move.

A bold revision of ancient history that is well worth reading, even if its conclusions sometimes overshoot the evidence.

Pub Date: Dec. 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-312-30400-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2002

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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