A vigorous historical page-turner packed with a cast of decidedly colorful (and off-color) actors.

STAMPEDE

GOLD FEVER AND DISASTER IN THE KLONDIKE

A tangy tale of the 19th century’s last, storied gold rush, timed for its 125th anniversary.

Journalist and Iraq War veteran Castner, who chronicled a comrade’s battlefield death in the excellent All the Ways We Kill and Die (2016), has a fine time depicting the salty, seldom virtuous figures who drifted north to Alaska following the acquisition of the Russian territory in the purchase known as “Seward’s Folly.” There was no folly in it, for the deal opened up a vast new land to economic exploitation, as manifested by the mass arrival of gold-seekers in 1896. Invoking the rational actor theory of economics, the author observes that the boom served the interests of only a very few people in a whirl of pyramid schemes and other scams: “Perhaps ‘Klondicitis’ was the best term for the infectious cloudiness of reason that ran amok,” he writes, also chronicling the racism and contempt for Native peoples that characterized the era. Soon every loose hand in the world, it seemed, was on the way to Dawson City, Juneau, and points north, looking to get rich. Castner’s dramatis personae includes the best known of them all, Jack London, who arrived poor and left pretty much that same way—but with a trove of stories that he would turn into bestsellers. Others are less well known, including a star-crossed band of New Yorkers who were caught by “avalanches, driving winds, plunging temperatures that broke their thermometers” and were reduced to eating their dogs. There’s a lot of swagger and a lot of swishing skirts in Castner’s pages, rife with entertaining accounts of all seven deadly sins, but many of his unfortunates bow in and disappear, even as “the circus left almost as soon as it arrived.”

A vigorous historical page-turner packed with a cast of decidedly colorful (and off-color) actors.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54450-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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