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THE UNNAMABLE PRESENT

Admirers of contemporary European literature and continental philosophy will find this engaging and provocative.

Italian polymath and publisher Calasso (The Art of the Publisher, 2015, etc.) continues his multivolume exploration of the origins of modernity and the modern world.

In The Ruin of Kasch (1983), the author examined the rise of nationalism and its twin, totalitarianism. In the present, comparatively slender volume, he looks at the world that has resulted, a world of unfixed meanings and constant dread. At midpoint comes a remark on artificial intelligence in the form of a programmer’s quip about gorillas fashioning humans and then realizing they are still gorillas. How to keep the machines from taking over? Calasso answers: “Create doubt, uncertainty in robots. Make them humble. Teach them not to follow programs too literally.” So it is with humans, whose various quests for meaning have led to fundamentalism here and agnosticism there. These days, we fight not over things that lie beyond and above society “but at society itself,” abandoning norms, substituting new ones, arguing over what is politically correct and not. Meanwhile, well, suffice it to say that Calasso rejects aspects of relativism, certainly those that defend Islamic extremism. His reasons are subtly developed and delivered episodically, more akin to Hitchens than Fallaci: “The freedom of the shari‘a,” he writes, “is not compatible with that of the Founding Fathers.” Sometimes the author’s argument can be a little scattershot and even obvious, as when he introduces tourism into the modern mix and then complains that no tourist would dream of wearing silly tourist garb at home. Mostly, though, the book is a deeply learned if allusive disquisition that brings in Walter Benjamin, Leibniz, the Bhagavad-Gita, and various TED talkers. The two-page ending, turning on a dream of Baudelaire’s, is a tour de force and among the most memorable things Calasso has written over the course of his series.

Admirers of contemporary European literature and continental philosophy will find this engaging and provocative.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-27947-9

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Readers Vote
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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


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  • National Book Award Finalist

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

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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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