While aimed at the generalist, full enjoyment of this scholarly cultural history presupposes some background in the more...



From a foremost Egyptologist (Moses the Egyptian, not reviewed, etc.), an insightful look at the framework of beliefs that supported one of the world’s oldest and most stable civilizations.

Girded with impeccable credentials, Assmann (Egyptology/Univ. of Heidelberg) embarks on an ambitious course of delving into the meaning behind the often larger-than-life events in the history of “the Two Lands.” While the author’s account is, for the most part, written in straightforward language, at times he bends at least one knee in obeisance to mind-numbing academic jargon, the intent seeming to be putting laymen off the scent. This gives rise to such typically obfuscatory and inelegant expressions as “semantic paradigms” and “the spatio-temporal evolution of civilizations,” as well as neologisms like Mikhail Bakhtin’s “chronotope,” a literary construction of time. These lapses are, thankfully, infrequent, arising in the context of the theoretical antecedents to Assmann’s work. Spanning the whole epoch of Egyptian history from 3,200 b.c. to a.d. 300, the current volume chronicles the “remarkable pattern of disruption and continuity, departure and return” that was maintained even during the eras of Persian, Greek, and Roman occupations, and the failed monotheistic revolution of the Amarna period during the New Kingdom reign of Akhenaten. Despite his care in drawing the distinction between the traditional historiography of collecting facts and artifacts, and the radical Enlightenment method of recollecting the history of mind inherent in texts and images, Assmann’s fascinating multidisciplinary approach within the ill-defined boundaries of this nascent ology often has more in common with poetry than hard science. Among his more noteworthy contentions is the idea that the concomitant rise and fall of hieroglyphic writing is anything but coincidental.

While aimed at the generalist, full enjoyment of this scholarly cultural history presupposes some background in the more traditional histories of ancient Egypt. (8 b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: April 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-8050-5462-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2002

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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