As unadorned as the life described, aboriginal and rejoicing. (Photos)




Enthusiastic memoir of a man and his family living on their own terms in wild patches of Alaska.

In a prequel (Down in Bristol Bay, 1999), Durr recounted his experiences as a commercial fisherman on Alaska’s not-always-kind waters back in the early ’60s, when he was a tenured professor of English at Syracuse University with a serious, inchoate yearning for a more natural and elemental life. He got it, and he got even more when he decided to move his family to Alaska to escape the psychobabble and commercialism of the Lower 48. “What price Convenience? (In America, Convenience is always capitalized, like God.) What does it profit a man to gain a shower and lose a wilderness?” he asks. Point made, Durr doesn’t revert to it too often—only when he is swelling with the fullness of his new homeplace and has to shake his head ruefully over what has been forsaken. His adopted turf presents plenty of challenges, from getting meat for the table to keeping warm at 50-below. Some predicaments require bush-country ingenuity (or death), but others are more mundane, such as scaring up enough capital to pay for provisions he can’t obtain any other way or reconciling himself to the use of a chainsaw and a snowmobile. These conflicts are communicated in a relaxed, deliberate voice that feels swept of stress, easy of mind: Durr is where he wants to be, doing what he wants as well as what he thinks is right (without being righteous). He recounts finding a cove full of Japanese glass buoys washed onto the beach, the building of a compound for his family, the night silence of a still cabin when you rise to feed the fire. He recalls the sauna that got out of control and burned down his house, then describes the rebuilding; he’s not going anywhere.

As unadorned as the life described, aboriginal and rejoicing. (Photos)

Pub Date: July 7, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-31179-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2004

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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