An elegant, caustic travelogue sparkling with insight.

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LONG AFTER MIDNIGHT AT THE NIÑO BIEN

A YANQUI’S MISSTEPS IN ARGENTINA

Greenhorn American decides on a whim to move to Argentina and learn to tango.

In 2000, just out of college, Winter packed up and headed to Buenos Aires to see what might happen. Little did at first, since he knew practically nobody in the city, his Texan Spanish was rusty and the country was in the middle of a calamitous economic meltdown that made it nearly impossible to find work. Eager for friends, Winter fell in with a handy cabal of argumentative tango aficionados, or milongueros, eager to school him in the art of seduction, dance, life, Argentina or anything else that crossed their minds. At first, Winter found the dance tough going: “Given the anarchic syncopations of the tango, with its wailing violins and unconventional ¾ time, I never stood a chance.” He eventually got the hang of it, and fell breathlessly in love with a female instructor. But Winter offers no gauzy paean to a stock notion of romantic Latin life. Instead, he provides a well-considered look into the Argentinean soul by an outsider who maintains the proper distance while remaining entranced. Winter is endlessly fascinated by the contradictions of a people so elegant and yet so crude, who seem so arrogant and yet continually display the national insecurity complex. His Argentina is a maddening, utterly beguiling place. Though Winter likens loving the nation during some of the worst years in its always-stormy history to “falling for an alcoholic at the very moment she hits rock bottom,” there will be no shortage of readers putting his book down and hopping the next flight to Buenos Aires.

An elegant, caustic travelogue sparkling with insight.

Pub Date: March 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-58648-370-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2007

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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