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HUGO CHÁVEZ

Admirable search for the facts and insight that are often swamped in Chavez’s turbulent wake.

Thorough, thoughtful biography of Venezuela’s controversial leftist president.

Born of mixed ancestry in the plains area of Barinas, 54-year-old Chávez is “a tropical version of Zelig…adept at blending in,” conclude the authors, a husband-and-wife team of journalists from Caracas. They give the president credit for tireless work and attention to detail, at least early on, but they also quote Chávez’s former psychiatrist, who believes his formidable charm is often impelled by a narcissistic need to be adored. Marcano and Tyszka seem overwhelmed by the many and various explanations volunteered for the president’s occasionally strange behavior, notions and edicts. It’s easy to understand their problem: People who have gotten close to Chávez tend to be sharply divided between those who admire him to the point of adoration and his committed adversaries. The authors number among their sources several of the latter, including at least one former lover and several military officers who conspired with Chávez in his plot to overthrow the government. Planned for a decade, the attempted coup of February 1992 initially appeared to be a disaster; the administration got to the television station first and thus held on to power. Chávez was the first to surrender, and the government made the mistake of allowing him to address the nation, hoping that his co-conspirators would give themselves up without further bloodshed. That address, the authors note, gave Chávez the opportunity to work his charismatic magic on the Venezuelan people. They remembered when he was released from prison in 1994 and in 1998 elected him to the nation’s top office with 56 percent of the vote. Chávez has since survived an attempted coup, two divorces and the ongoing disapproval of the U.S. government.

Admirable search for the facts and insight that are often swamped in Chavez’s turbulent wake.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-679-45666-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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NIGHT

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

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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