A brief, satisfying introduction to an ancient civilization not unlike our own but largely forgotten and in an area still...

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DAWN AND SUNSET

An amateur historian describes ancient Mesopotamia’s early civilization.

In this revised work (originally published in 2012 as Dawn and Sunset: Insight Into the Mystery of the Early Mesopotamian Civilization), Baizerman, a high school English teacher in Israel, provides a primer on ancient Mesopotamia, one of the first complex societies. He illustrates everyday Sumerian life reaching back to the fourth millennium B.C.E. For its citizens to survive, the harsh landscape demanded organization, which led to massive irrigation projects that brought about farming and, eventually, surpluses—the springboard from a nomadic way of life to civilization. Urbanization afforded leisure time that supported art, architecture, festivals, and bureaucracy as well as beer, which the Sumerians were brewing thousands of years ago. They even had a beer goddess. Of “heavily clouded” ethnic origins, the Sumerians spoke a language like no other. Mainly for accounting purposes, they developed writing, advancing from pictograms to cuneiform inscriptions in clay tablets. Baizerman chronicles the growth of metallurgy and industry along with advances in trade, transport, and urban development, such as wheeled vehicles and ceramic water pipes. A theocratic regime gave way to a secular leadership based on warrior skills, while shrewd politics, such as debt forgiveness for the poor, helped forestall riots and revolutions. Even so, the population occasionally revolted against taxes and bureaucracy, and a succession of rulers engaged in military adventures and empire-building. Baizerman outlines the growth of empire and its eventual collapse, noting that “each society carries in its midst a virus of self-destruction.” Mining translations and texts mostly from Internet sources, he provides a vivid impression of what life must have been like in this vanished world to which modern life finds many similarities—constant wars and empire-building, class divisions, taxes, bureaucracy, corruption, political plotting, even climate change. Despite some occasional writing flubs—“For Ancient Mesopotamians, history was a fascinating game, no matter real or made up”—and mixed metaphors, the writing is usually fluid, sometimes even elegant, as with his description of the season cycle: “The earth would repose, regaining its productivity and dreaming of the next flooding.” Elsewhere, he refers to native slaves from families “caught in a mousetrap of debt.” An admirably skeptical researcher, he analyzes his sources and backs up his history with ample footnotes and a bibliography.

A brief, satisfying introduction to an ancient civilization not unlike our own but largely forgotten and in an area still riven with conflict.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2015

ISBN: 978-1504936101

Page Count: 288

Publisher: AuthorHouseUK

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

COLUMBINE

Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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THE ABOLITION OF MAN

The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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