EROS, MAGIC, AND THE MURDER OF PROFESSOR CULIANU

Blood in the ivory tower: a real-life thriller about postCold War espionage, an unsolved murder, and the occult. Professor Ioan Culianu of the University of Chicago died in a ``Mob-style assassination'' in May 1991. Although the crime remains unsolved, Anton (English/DePaul Univ.) blames Culianu's brutal and humiliating murder in a bathroom stall on Romania's secret police, the Securitate. The Romanian-born Culianu was a scholar of international renown, whose outspoken criticism of the Communist and post-revolutionary regimes in Romania endeared him to some and made enemies of others. Yet, while its argument turns on political issues, the book's canvas is far broader, like Culianu's own work in the history of religion and myth. Anton's is a gripping and sophisticated investigation. It undertakes a complex analysis of Culianu's life and death and the multiple layers of connections between the two. For Culianu was not a dull and cloistered professor, but a colorful, ambitious young man in whom some saw the ``consummate academic hustler.'' Aside from his vast scholarly publications, he wrote fiction and political commentary, and hoped to publish fantasy fiction. At the heart of Anton's study lies Culianu's scholarly interests in myth, magic, the occult, and otherworldly journeys. A crucial part of his identity was his role as hand-picked successor to the distinguished scholar of myths, Romanian-born Mircea Eliade, whose involvement with the preWW II fascist Iron Guard placed Culianu at the center of a stormy dispute akin to the one aroused by Paul de Man's Nazi journalism. But Culianu also created a myth of himself as the omniscient opposition, and the Securitate took the bait. Was it ambitious posturing? Was it passionate ideology? Anton unfolds his tale by letting this extraordinary personality speak for himself. Murder, passion, and politics as the fascinating true story of one Romanian-born academic's postmodern rise and fall.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8101-1396-1

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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