Heady stuff for those with interest in the subject, but so dense that casual history buffs may fall by the wayside.




Intellectual detective work sifts fact from mystery in the stories spread across the ancient world by Greek adventurers.

Though not an archaeologist, Fox (Ancient History/Oxford Univ.; The Classical World, 2006, etc.) seems to possess a precise mental catalogue of every significant pottery shard recently surfaced in the Mediterranean and Near East. Equally important, he knows what has not yet been found and acknowledges it, often with anticipation. These objects, along with the excavated sites of ancient habitation, burial mounds, cemeteries and shipwrecks, comprise an extraordinary, if sometimes tentative roadmap of the roving Greeks’ trajectory in the eighth century BCE. They traveled east and west, trading, raiding and sometimes settling in a time of cultural awakening. Virtually illiterate since Mycenaean Era syllabic script had been abandoned 400 years earlier, they adapted a Semitic alphabet around 750 BCE. They took with them, in oral tradition, the epic poems of Homer and the myths in which heroes from a glorious past challenged the gods, performed miraculous feats, won great victories, slew monsters, avenged rape and murder, rescued kidnapped virgins, etc. Tracing the impact of these “travelling stories” throughout the world the Greeks influenced, the author’s acumen shines like a beacon. For example, cults to Heracles (Hercules to the Romans) spread from Asia Minor to Spain; place names attributable to Io, a maiden seduced by Zeus and transformed into a cow, track the migration of those stories eastward from Argos. Fox focuses on the island of Euboea as an origin of the travelers, citing proven links along with tantalizing leads. Throughout, his intellectual discipline is impressive. “Culture-heroes do approximately similar things is different societies,” he stresses, warning against “mistaking parallel stories for causes and origins.” Fox notes that although Homer’s tales were of the distant past, the poet was “often precise” about landscapes and places from his own time.

Heady stuff for those with interest in the subject, but so dense that casual history buffs may fall by the wayside.

Pub Date: April 8, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-679-44431-2

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2009

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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