If presidential candidate Al Smith was the Democratic Party's happy warrior, Bert Lance, on the evidence of the grouchy memoir at hand, ranks among the more alienated of its behind-the-scenes power brokers. The subtitle notwithstanding, the author offers precious few insights on his private life. Indeed, he focuses largely on his career as a fund-raising political strategist for Jimmy Carter and, more recently, Jesse Jackson. Whether his once-close relationship with the ex-President can survive the damned-with-faint-praise portrait that's a centerpiece of the querulous text will strike many as a very open question. The former banker from Calhoun, Georgia, also furnishes an exculpatory account of the legal woes that drove him from office as Carter's budget director. While Lance does not provide much detail on the criminal charges (of which a jury eventually found him not guilty), he complains often and bitterly about how the press has kept the scandal (putatively attributable to GOP fears that the chief executive might appoint him chairman of the FRB) in the public eye for over a decade. On the plus side, Lance comments astutely on contemporary pols and politics, speculating, for instance, that a President's capacity to achieve administration goals may be directly linked to the undesirability of his running mate as a successor. By the author's cynical reasoning, then, George Bush's choice of Dan Quayle was a masterstroke and Carter's anointment of Walter Mondale was a disaster. In like vein, he rails against his party's attempts to accommodate a surfeit of single-issue constituencies. If the Democrats are to regain the White House, he concludes, the party's leaders must create a platform with national appeal instead of one that looks like ``a quilting party for special interests.'' Occasional perspectives apart, the author's featured dish is sour grapes. (Eight pages of photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-671-69027-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1991

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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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