THE ENDURANCE

SHACKLETON'S LEGENDARY ANTARCTIC EXPEDITION

The saga of the Endurance and her crew—Shackleton’s Antarctic fiasco turned heroic melodrama—is discovered anew through the expedition’s previously unpublished photos and Alexander’s (The Way to Xanadu, 1994, etc.) well-turned storytelling. The Heroic Age was coming to a close when Sir Ernest Shackleton took off in pursuit of one of exploration’s last prizes: the crossing on foot of the Antarctic continent. But his boat never made its intended southernmost harbor. Instead, it got stuck in ice in the Weddell Sea, abode of 200-mile-per-hour winds and 100-degree-below-zero temperatures. Thus began two years of chilly misfortune, met by the crew’s perseverance, and conveyed by Alexander in an elegant, subdued manner: The eerie portents of the ice close ever tighter around the Endurance, the helpless, hopeless, endless days follow one another on the ice pack, and finally Shackleton makes an outrageous bid to reach South Georgia Island, 900 miles distant, in one of the abandoned mother ship’s small boats—through a hurricane, no less. Accompanying the expedition, luckily, was photographer James Hurley, who was to chronicle the exploit visually both for scientific purposes and entertainment value. His images, which miraculously survived the ordeal, give the story an added palpability in time and space. Many of the photographs are not only quite beautiful, particularly of the Endurance as it sits icebound yet under desperate full sail, but also moving, with crew members putting on their best faces as death sat waiting just outside the picture frame. Published in conjunction with an exhibition about the expedition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, this book occupies a prize spot in the already abundant literature of polar exploration.

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-40403-1

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1998

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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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