A thorough, if extreme, proposal for making African-Americans self-reliant.

The Black Ten Commandments


A debut political book proposes new commandments for black America.

In response to Ossie Davis’ 1965 call for a “Black ten commandments,” Caligula has composed a regimen of activities he thinks will “provide a new standard of leadership—one that is not autocratic, doesn’t thrive on instability, operates in a more transparent manner, and disseminates a plan for the Black community.” Much of the book (the first 400 pages) is spent attempting to establish the economic, political, psychological, and spiritual context for black America. The commandments, when they finally appear, are presented as solutions to the myriad problems faced by African-Americans, explained both in their philosophical dimension and practical application. The concerns of the commandments, which retain a basis in Scripture, include setting proper priorities, rejecting white paternalism, refocusing on the nuclear family, reinvigorating the black church, and other goals that the author sees as strengthening the position of the larger African-American community. A mix of conservative faith-and-family initiatives combined with political agitation in the courts and support for black businesses, Caligula’s platform is essentially a rebranding of long-promoted improvement strategies articulated in a franker and more forceful tone. An Army veteran, Caligula uses U.S. military principles, including the Military Problem Solving Process, as a basis for both community- and self-improvement. He writes with clarity and confidence, though his idiosyncrasies are numerous and frequently distracting. (He spends a surprising amount of time discussing comparative mythology, for example, and insists on always spelling African as “AfriCAN.”) Though many of his complaints and criticisms about the relationship between white and black America are valid, the author holds some controversial opinions in regards to both mainstream Christianity (which he calls “Fascianity...biblical-based fascism akin to Nazism”) and the American political system (“Liberal foxes and conservative wolves are two sides of the same coin”). He is no fan of President Barack Obama (whom he calls a “selfish trickster”), and has little patience for what he terms “Black victim ‘excuse-aholics.’ ” It’s a tough love approach to say the least, one that will likely prove too tough for many readers.

A thorough, if extreme, proposal for making African-Americans self-reliant.

Pub Date: March 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4787-2705-7

Page Count: 538

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2016

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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