Are These the 20 Most Important Questions in Human History--Or is This a Game of 20 Questions?
By Mark Kurlansky
(Walker & Company, Hardcover, 9780802779069, 96pp.)
Publication Date: April 26, 2011
What is What? Could it be that noted author Mark Kurlansky has written a very short, terrifically witty, deeply thought-provoking book entirely in the form of questions? A book that draws on philosophy, religion, literature, policy-indeed, all of civilization-to ask what may well be the twenty most important questions in human history? Or has he given us a really smart, impossibly amusing game of twenty questions? Kurlansky considers the work of Confucius, Plato, Gertrude Stein, Shakespeare, Descartes, Nietzsche, Freud, Hemingway, Emily Dickinson, the Talmud, Charles de Gaulle, Virginia Woolf, and others, distilling the deep questions of life to their sparkling essence. What? supplies endless fodder for thoughtful conversation but also endless opportunity to ponder and be challenged by-and entertained by-these questions in refreshingly original ways. As Kurlansky says, In a world that seems devoid of absolute certainties, how can we make declarative statements? Without asking the questions, how will we ever get to the answers? "Why are we here? Why is all of this here? Why do we die? What is death? What does it mean that outer space is infinite and what is after infinity? What is the significance of birdflight, why does matter decay, and how is our life different from that of a mosquito? Is there an end to these questions or is questioning as infinite as space?" With his striking black-and-white woodcut illustrations throughout, this handsome volume is a tour de force that packs a tremendous wallop in a deliciously compact package.
Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling author of Cod, Salt, The Basque History of the World, 1968, The Big Oyster, and The Eastern Stars, among many other books. Visit his Web site at www.markkurlansky.com.
"What at first appears to be a slight, merely quirky book—Hey, look! This guy phrases every sentence as a question!—sneaks up on us and, in the end, leaves us with a new appreciation for the power of the question mark."—Booklist