Though exhaustively researched, the book is not compelling enough to hold the interest of anyone who does not have a...

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THE SCENT OF SCANDAL

GREED, BETRAYAL, AND THE WORLD'S MOST BEAUTIFUL ORCHID

An excruciatingly detailed account of the 2002 controversy that rocked Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Fla., when its scientists were asked to identify an orchid of dubious origin.

St. Petersburg Times writer Pittman's (Manatee Insanity: Inside the War over Florida's Most Famous Endangered Species, 2010, etc.) zeal for his subject is admirable, but his enthusiasm is unlikely to be shared by many of his readers. Was Michael Kovach a simple orchid collector who, by removing a rare new species of orchid from its native Peru and bringing it back to the United States, unwittingly violated the law? Or was he a greedy, scheming orchid smuggler, well aware of the illegality of his actions? Such questions are intriguing at first, but the book begins to drag as the reader discovers how little is actually at stake: Kovach will either be sentenced to jail but not serve any time, or he'll simply have to pay a small fine. The executive director of the Gardens will either keep her job or be fired. People's professional reputations will suffer, they'll lose money and they'll be otherwise inconvenienced. But after expectations of explosive, life-or-death drama, such mundane reversals feel anticlimactic. However, Pittman's background as a reporter mostly serves him well; he is adept at foregrounding the most pertinent details of a story that involves conflicting accounts and years of complex litigation, and the narrative moves along swiftly. In other ways, though, his journalistic instincts are a liability. The book often feels choppy and rushed, as if it were written on a tight deadline, and Pittman has a penchant for hackneyed phrases (“the big pay-off…that would put you on Easy Street”) and heavy-handed foreshadowing (“She believed she had climbed to the pinnacle of success. Actually, she was standing on a precipice”).

Though exhaustively researched, the book is not compelling enough to hold the interest of anyone who does not have a personal connection to the material. Read Eric Hansen’s Orchid Fever (2000) instead.

Pub Date: April 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8130-3974-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Univ. Press of Florida

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2012

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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 clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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