What?: Book summary and reviews of What? by Mark Kurlansky

What?

Are These the 20 Most Important Questions in Human History--Or is This a Game of 20 Questions?

by Mark Kurlansky

What?

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Book Summary

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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"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

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Author Information

Mark Kurlansky Author Biography

© Lisa Klausner

Mark Kurlansky was born in Hartford, Connecticut. After receiving a BA in Theater from Butler, Kurlansky worked in New York as a playwright, having a number of off-off Broadway productions, and as a playwright-in-residence at Brooklyn College. In the mid 1970s, unhappy with the direction New York theater was taking, he turned to journalism. He worked as a foreign correspondent for The International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, and others. Based in Paris and then Mexico, he reported on Europe, West Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

His articles have appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including Time, Harper’s, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Audubon Magazine, Food & Wine, Gourmet, and others. He has had 19 books ...

... Full Biography
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Name Pronunciation
Mark Kurlansky: ker-LAN-ski

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