MODERN TIMES, MODERN PLACES

A sweeping, ambitious examination of sea changes in human perception and interpretation over the past 100 years, from Oxford professor Conrad (A Song of Love and Death: The Meaning of Opera, 1987, etc.). The author admits that his account heavily favors the first half of the 20th century. Although the thematically organized chapters march in roughly chronological order, in many, Conrad devotes dozens of pages to an artistic trend as played out in pre- WWII decades, then tacks on a few paragraphs zipping us through its manifestations in the postwar years. His essential subject is the assault of high modernism on the received wisdoms of the past. As he depicts our century’s most daring painters, writers, composers, architects, and directors (abetted by their peers in science and apocalyptic politics) challenging conventional notions about the representation and even the essential nature of physical, social, and psychological reality, two central points emerge. Abstraction, Conrad suggests in his most interesting passages, is not just an artistic strategy, but a response to the increasingly abstract nature of modern life, experienced at an accelerating pace and accessorized with ever more complex technologies as disorienting as they are indispensable. His second principal theme—the loss of individual identity within the urban crowd, totalitarian political movements, and consumerist mass culture’seems more clichÇd. Indeed, there isn—t much new material here, as Conrad rounds up the usual artistic suspects (surrealism, dadaism, cubism, serialism, atonalism: name your favorite, and you—ll find it) and takes readers to such oft-visited sites as turn-of-the-century Vienna, Moscow in the rosy 1920s heyday of Soviet idealism, and 1990s Tokyo, paragon of the ersatz, virtual-reality world we now inhabit. Nonetheless, he capably integrates massive amounts of information into a smoothly entertaining chronicle. Scholars may regret the lack of original insights, but this accomplished and very thorough round-up of our century’s most important cultural trends is perfect for the serious general reader. (166 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 3, 1999

ISBN: 0-375-40113-X

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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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

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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