Wright ends his illuminating story in the present, where Otlet’s thoughts about the connection of information to knowledge,...

The story of Paul Otlet (1868-1944), Belgian librarian and utopian visionary, who, long before the digital age, dreamed of a worldwide repository of media, accessible to all.

As Wright (Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages, 2007), New York Times director of user experience and product research, explains in this shrewd, brisk biography, cataloging books was only one of Otlet’s aims—he “saw little distinction between creating a new classification of human knowledge and reorienting the world’s political system.” Partnering with Henri La Fontaine, winner of the 1913 Nobel Peace Prize, and eventually involving architect Le Corbusier, Otlet envisioned a site for collecting all knowledge: “any object manifesting any kind of graphic symbols—letters, numbers, images—captured in any form of media in order to express any form of human thought.” The Palais Mondial was a start, a 36-room exhibition space with a huge lecture hall and commodious library, where researchers worked to fulfill individuals’ requests for information, some stored on the new invention of microfilm. But Otlet wanted more: a Mundaneum—“a World City that might stand at the center of a new world government.” Knowledge, Otlet believed, was inextricably intertwined, and intellectual communities, working collectively, could achieve social, political and cultural progress: “a new international political system, a monetary policy designed to ensure the fair distribution of wealth, a judicial system, [and] a global language,” all “in the service of humanity.” The Palais Mondial, initially supported by the Belgian government, was ultimately undermined by war, political controversy, the stock market crash and European turmoil. With his plans for a Mundaneum quashed, Otlet turned to writing, insisting on the moral and ethical implications of an information network, “the possibility of a technological future driven not by greed and vanity, but by a yearning for truth, a commitment to social change, and a belief in the possibility of spiritual liberation.”

Wright ends his illuminating story in the present, where Otlet’s thoughts about the connection of information to knowledge, and knowledge to insight, are still urgent.

Pub Date: June 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-19-993141-5

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2014


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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