A HUMAN HISTORY OF EMOTION

HOW THE WAY WE FEEL BUILT THE WORLD WE KNOW

Occasionally heavy reading that is well worth the effort.

An educative foray into a “growing discipline…that tries to understand how people understood their feelings in the past.”

How mankind has dealt with emotion might seem an abstruse academic problem, but this is an insightful and mostly accessible history that should intrigue diligent readers. Firth-Godbehere, research fellow for the Centre for the History of Emotions at Queen Mary University, hits the ground running by pointing out that emotions are a concept “that English-speaking Westerners put in a box two hundred years ago….The notion that feelings are something that happen in the brain was invented in the early nineteenth century.” Earlier thinkers spoke of temperaments, passions or sentiments—archaic terms now replaced with a single catchall term. The author casts his net widely, beginning with the ancient Greeks, who had no shortage of opinions on our inner lives. Later Christian theologians, led by St. Augustine, concluded that feelings are not good or bad in themselves; their value is determined based on how they are used in the service of God. Any emotion could be sinful if used for personal gain. In the modern age, we have largely discarded the almost universal idea that controlling one’s feelings is the mark of a civilized person. Showing emotions is acceptable, and even material desires (i.e. “covetousness”) are OK if one shows “good taste.” Firth-Godbehere notes that all these concepts are Western, and he goes on to introduce different approaches to emotions in Japan, Africa, and China. Although described as a history, this book delves deeply into philosophy, the theologies of the major religions (rife with commonalities), science, the arts, and social movements from humanism to communism. Plenty of scholars seem to have read everything on their chosen subjects, but it’s rare to find one who can convert this massive database into lucid, captivating prose. Paul Johnson and Yuval Noah Harari do it; Firth-Godbehere is another.

Occasionally heavy reading that is well worth the effort.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-46131-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown Spark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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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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