Yet another triumph for Beard: a joy to read, too short for certain, packed with lessons quickly absorbed.

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HOW DO WE LOOK

THE BODY, THE DIVINE, AND THE QUESTION OF CIVILIZATION

The renowned classicist delivers another tantalizing morsel of analysis, this time on “art, and our reactions to it, over thousands of years and across thousands of miles.”

In this “inevitably and unashamedly selective book,” Beard (Classics/Cambridge Univ.; Women & Power: A Manifesto, 2017, etc.) reviews the very purpose of art: who made it, who viewed it, and how we see it. From 3,000-year-old Olmec heads through the iconoclasts and Christian and Islamic portrayals of God, she traces historic conflicts over images of man and gods. The Egyptian memorial of a young woman named Phrasikleia (circa 550 B.C.E.) engages viewers in the way that future Greek and Roman statues would. But there are also images “not designed to be seen at all”—e.g. the terra-cotta warrior complex of China’s first emperor, which “adds up to the biggest tableau of sculpture made anywhere on our planet, ever.” The power of those portrayed, like Ramesses II, is achieved by their outsized presence, but to illustrate a central point, the author notes that images of power are only as strong as viewers allow. Throughout the book, the wealth of illustrations clearly reflects Beard’s analyses. In the 18th century, art historian and archaeologist J.J. Winckelmann argued that “you could trace the rise and fall of civilization through the rise and fall of the representation of the human body.” Winckelmann set the standard to judge other cultures in his assessment of the ultimate symbol of classical style, the Apollo Belvedere. But Beard’s ideas about the images of gods are even more fascinating, especially with regard to the Ajanta Cave drawings in India, which force viewers to actively interpret their complexity, searching for truth and faith in the darkness. Even more thought-provoking is the Islamic use of calligraphy, more symbolic than practical, bridging the gap between art and the written word.

Yet another triumph for Beard: a joy to read, too short for certain, packed with lessons quickly absorbed.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63149-440-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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