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THE LEGEND OF COLTON H. BRYANT

A latter-day Silkwood, quiet and understated, beautifully written, speaking volumes about the priorities of the age.

A lyrical paean to an unsung…well, not exactly hero, but one of life’s unsung people.

If this book were a country song, it would be by Merle Haggard. Whether British-born Fuller (Scribbling the Cat: Travels with an African Soldier, 2004, etc.) knows from Haggard is a matter of speculation, but what is clear is that she has an unfailing eye for common people caught up in uncommon events. This story of a young Wyomingite named Colton H. Bryant is also that of the oil and gas boom wrought by deregulation in these rapacious years of Bush, “a tragedy before it even starts because there was never a way for anyone to win against all the odds out here.” Alternately bullied and ignored—“Retard” is a slur-cum-nickname that figures often in these pages—Colton did most of the things a young man in the heavily Mormon southwestern corner of the state is supposed to do: ride and rope, fish and hunt, cruise around in pickup trucks. Moreover, like young men in Evanston, Colton “was born with horses and oil in his blood like his father before him and his grandfather before that and maybe his grandfather’s father before that.” Having endured adolescence thanks to a good friend named Jake and a slightly misquoted creed borrowed from television (“Mind over matter”), Colton followed the second birthright to the oil patch, where he quickly found work as a roughneck, an unforgiving job. “They have to keep drilling hour after hour—storm, heat, sleet, ice, sun—no matter what,” writes Fuller. “They’ll slap another beating heart on the rig to take your place if you’re so much as five minutes late.” Diligent and aware of the dangers, but needing to support a wife and baby, he fell into the well, as so many others have, just one of 35 Wyomingites to die on the rigs between 2000 and 2006. The petroleum company, in the meanwhile, boasted record profits—while Colton’s family “received no compensation for his loss.”

A latter-day Silkwood, quiet and understated, beautifully written, speaking volumes about the priorities of the age.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59420-183-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2008

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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