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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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