IMAGINING ATLANTIS

In this survey of Atlantis theories, Ellis (Monsters of the Sea, 1994, etc.) explains and then pokes holes in previous conjectures—from the scientifically grounded to the plain crazy—before tendering a few of his own It is all Plato’s fault, suggests Ellis—the mare’s nest of literature, philosophy, geology, archaeology, oceanography, ancient history, mythology, art history, mysticism, cryptology, and fantasy that can be summed up in the word “Atlantology.” A few mentions of that fabulous island in his Critias and Timaeus, and 2,500 years later we still haven’t heard the end of it. Ellis covers here the whole gamut of Atlantis explanations, compares them to a strict reading of Plato’s story, and proceeds to dismember them all. The more outlandish, like paranormal Edgar Cayce and occultist Madame Blavatsky, are easy to dismiss as they have no truck with Plato (not to mention their general lunacy); same goes for notions locating Atlantis in the Crimea, the Sahara, and central France. Jules Verne and Arthur Conan Doyle were in it for the entertainment value; even reputable (or not so reputable) investigators and cognoscenti like Francis Bacon, Ignatius Donnelly, Charles Pellegrino, Spyridon Marinatos, and Angelos Galanopoulos display instances of “rash assumption, hasty conclusions, circular reasoning, and argument based purely on rhetoric.” And his points are all well taken: Hold true to Plato’s tale—no fiddling around with the numbers, no monkeying with the geography—and all their speculations smell like three-day-old fish. As for Ellis’s thoughts on Atlantis: “I think it was entirely Plato’s creation,” that the story is likely a parable for the demise of Periclean Athens, its magical detailing plucked from contemporaneous regional sources: the architecture perhaps from the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the geologic catastrophe from the Helice earthquake of 373 b.c. Just so: another corrupt civilization flooded into oblivion, a story as old as time. Of course, Atlantis is still lost, Ellis wags his head, perhaps a tad smugly. And it always will be. So stop looking, except in your imagination. (For another interpretation of Atlantis, see Rodney Castleden, Atlantis Destroyed, p. 627.) (52 photos and maps, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-679-44602-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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