An essential history of a poor idea badly executed.




A thoroughgoing study of the war that, suggests former New York Daily News editor Hoyle, may one day be known as “Bush’s Folly.”

Blending journalism and history, Hoyle’s narrative enfolds “a war that has morphed from a strongly supported U.S.-led retaliatory attack on al Qaeda terrorists into a bloody and brutal Iraqi civil war that has killed tens of thousands, perhaps more.” The origins of that morass remain murky, even with Hoyle’s expert storytelling, but it is clear that the war began in Dick Cheney’s office, the vice president having carved out an ample role as the “White House’s point man on intelligence” and serving more as prime minister than lieutenant. Cheney’s secretive circle of neoconservative ideologues seemed to live for 9/11, which provided an outlet for his habit of thinking of worst-case scenarios as the norm. At deeper question is that circle’s habit of wishful thinking, as in the case of those elusive WMDs, about which, for a time, they had a true believer in New York Times correspondent Judith Miller—who, by Hoyle’s account, needed a refresher course in journalistic ethics. Cheney’s cabal was augmented by Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary whose military judgment, in retrospect, seems disastrously poor (for instance, had the proper number of boots been put on the ground, one CIA operative remarks, Kabul would have fallen a month earlier than it did); Karl Rove, that ascended master of dirty tricks; and other loyalists who social-engineered discussions of the “war on terror” such that any deviation from the party line was tantamount to treason. Though much of this overarching story has been well documented in other books, there is plenty of news in Hoyle’s pages—a notable instance being his account of the careful redaction of Colin Powell’s now infamous speech before the United Nations.

An essential history of a poor idea badly executed.

Pub Date: March 18, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36035-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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