A collection of classical stories that could provide source material for a series of vivid graphic-literature adaptations.

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OH MY GODS

A MODERN RETELLING OF GREEK AND ROMAN MYTHS

Capsule bios of classic gods and heroes, with lots of detail but little poetry.

Admitting that his aim is more “modest” than a thematic exploration or a work of cultural criticism, Freeman (Classics/Luther Coll.; Alexander the Great, 2011, etc.) writes, “I simply want to retell the great myths of Greece and Rome for modern readers while remaining as faithful as possible to the original sources.” In scope, style and organization, the work is encyclopedic, whether profiling the gods or condensing epics (“Argonauts,” “Odysseus”) into separate chapters. The structure disrupts any possibility of flow and results in occasional repetition. Zeus naturally begins the section on the gods, but he can hardly be contained there, as he continues to reappear in subsequent sections on goddesses, heroes, lovers, etc. Some readers may find it difficult to keep straight who’s related to whom and how, while the accounts of rapes, murders, incest, seductions, sacrifices and transformations lose power when there are so many per page. More interesting are the etymological illuminations, the connection between the playful and sexually goatish Pan and the “uncontrollable fear” he inspired in some, “better known as pan-ic.” Or the fact that the alternate name for Orion is Urion, or “urine boy.” All of the greatest hits of classical antiquity are here—Hercules and the labors, Orpheus and Eurydice, Oedipus and his mother—but the prose rarely rises above matter-of-fact pedestrian, except through literary allusion (“Hell hath no fury like a witch scorned”). Only at the end, after the transition from Greek myth to Roman, do we get some sense of what it all might mean: “The long age of monarchy stretching back to Aeneas and the Trojan War, to the Greek tradition and the earliest tales, had at last come to an end. The classical world now entered the age of history, though the ancient myths that so shaped their lives—and still shape ours—were never forgotten.”

A collection of classical stories that could provide source material for a series of vivid graphic-literature adaptations.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-0997-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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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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