Nonetheless, an engrossing, challenging read.

GHOSTS OF VESUVIUS

A NEW LOOK AT THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII, HOW TOWERS FALL, AND OTHER STRANGE CONNECTIONS

Jack-of-all-scientific-trades Pellegrino (Ghosts of the Titanic, 2000, etc.) takes a wide-ranging look at awesome phenomena associated with Earth’s volcanic past and possible future.

The Earth has a life of its own, he reminds us, humbling the reader with a record of major volcanic events powerful enough to obliterate discrete civilizations and entire species, even to redirect evolution itself. And it ain’t over ’til it’s over, Pellegrino asserts. His charting of key incidents shows Mount St. Helens releasing in 1980 energy equivalent to a ten-megaton nuclear blast, but that’s nothing compared to his “standard unit” of an estimated 24,000 megatons, based on the 1628 b.c. explosion of the Island of Thera, a possible Atlantis in the Mediterranean. Records of ancient cultures from China to Byzantium chronicle the “years without summer,” including mini–ice ages, which is often what resulted. The richness of preserved artifacts from the a.d. 79 destruction of the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum by Mount Vesuvius affords the author a romp through the eruption’s grisly but poignant aftermath, dwelling on the “carbonized tongues” and “exploded teeth” of presumed victims. Less colorful but possibly more interesting are Pellegrino’s summaries of the amazing depth of detail gleaned from the fossil record in relevant locales, effectively rendered via the format of a trip back in time. The author’s vaulting digressions, however, are sometimes merely frustrating: introducing the notion of an infinitely “oscillating” series of identical universes, for example, he doesn’t really explain why Red Sox fans would have to watch that ball go through Bill Buckner’s legs time and again every 20 billion years or so. And a discussion of the mechanics of the World Trade Towers’ collapse in volcanologist’s terms has the ring of afterthought.

Nonetheless, an engrossing, challenging read.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-380-97310-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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...

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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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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