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PAGANS

THE END OF TRADITIONAL RELIGION AND THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY

A roundabout historical lesson that employs the classical texts with irony and irreverence.

Georgetown University provost and author O’Donnell (The Ruin of the Roman Empire: A New History, 2008, etc.) offers a revisionist tour of the reach and purpose of the gods for the Romans, from the height of Rome’s temple building by Augustus in 17 B.C. to the Christian incursions of the A.D. fourth century.

Senior statesmen privately consulted the ancient Greek Sibylline books kept beneath the Temple of Jupiter in Rome not to predict the future so much as to “determine what it would take to placate the gods—and thus produce a better future.” O’Donnell emphasizes how very gradual changes took place in how the people viewed their religion, as in the fluid exchange between the Greek and Roman pantheons and a general willingness by migrating people “to discern a familiar god behind an unfamiliar name.” The author describes with relish some of the various rituals practiced in ceremonies of sacrifice at the Roman temples, including prodigious spilling of blood, and popular notions of divination, such as augury (the watching of birds) and haruspicy (the reading of the innards of various animals), all of which were slowly eclipsed by the spread of Christianity. Yet Christians, too, had their magic incantations and secret societies. Examining the works of such philosophers as Plotinus, O’Donnell explores the eager adoption of new ideas about a more powerful deity and bloodless ritual. Yet Constantine’s gathering of bishops at the Council of Nicaea in 325 spurred the birth of paganism, as Christianity was fundamentally defined in opposition to it: as a rejection of false gods and old ways. Eventually, O’Donnell arrives at what a pagan is (from the Latin paganus, or peasant): anybody who was not a soldier of Christ.

A roundabout historical lesson that employs the classical texts with irony and irreverence.

Pub Date: March 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0061845352

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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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.

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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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