Syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist Greene (The 50 Year Dash, 1996; Hang Time, 1992; etc.) collects a hundred or so transitory essays celebrating the old human virtues and decrying the new human vices. Clearly, journeyman observer Greene is against moral shortcuts, meanness, and the demise of courtesy. Let there be no doubt: He is all for the eternal verities, homely and straightforward. His views, all under the rubric of ``human interest,'' are Janus-like, totally despairing and happily sanguine by turns. Now he espies endemic moral rot (e.g., parents who beat one of their children and stuff him in a drawer, out of sight); then, just when that seems to be the paranoid theme, he comes up with positively folksy goodness (the persistent cop who senses something amiss and finds the boy's hiding place). One page may despair of ``the coarseness of language, the celebration of violence, the constant devaluation of civility.'' The next page may cheerfully report true parental love or sweet generosity. With datelines from such precincts as Rensselaer, Ind., Ebensberg, Penn., and Bexley, Ohio (his hometown), Greene tells, in eight or nine hundred adroitly crafted words, of wise old people, murdered babies, enthusiastic boosters, grouchy customers, devoted daddies, and brave kids, and all kinds of dramatis personae short of a faithful dog. He interviews a Berkeley student known as ``the Naked Guy'' (for clear reasons). He discovers inspiration at county fairs, Yankee Stadium, and the vast Mall of America. Greene's quotidian passing parade may be one of rampant nostalgia and of sentiment verging on the maudlin, but truth to tell, he's pretty good at it. The stories are generally entertaining and, sometimes, if you're in the right mood, truly moving. A talented journalist in the old tradition serves some traditional apple pie with a bit of corn, and it may just suit a reader somehow predisposed to good feeling.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-670-87032-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1997

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?