A book that preserves testimony that might have disappeared amid the news cycles and Web overflow.

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HOW BLOGGING RECONNECTED NEW ORLEANS AFTER KATRINA

A collection of blog posts bears witness to the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

As an assemblage of mostly short Internet writings from the two years after natural disaster and official mismanagement devastated New Orleans, the contents here are necessarily uneven, but the most powerful will move readers to outrage. Just as eyes might start to glaze over the accumulation of detail and loss, Greg Peters provides a wake-up slap: “You’ve given up on us because we’re poor, black, Southern. We’re clowns, partying all day, drinking all night….We’re not going to go away. We are going to keep staggering along, demanding attention, pulling on your sleeve like some scabby beggar who knows you from another life….And if we go down, we’re going to take you down with us.” Like a compression of the stages of grief, the chronological progression of the blog posts moves from benumbed description through lashing back (at the national and local governments, the insurance companies, the media that has gotten so much wrong) to a sort of celebration, as residents returned and Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, and the New Orleans Saints resumed. Much of this would be classified as “citizen journalism,” yet many of the entries are from professional journalists, writing from a perspective more personal than they’d likely commit to print, as well as activists, chefs, musicians, poets, and a wide representation from the cultural gumbo that informs the city. According to editor Joyce, it “reveals a layer of post-Katrina life that wasn’t typically picked up by traditional news outlets or preserved in any official record.” Invoking the notion of “Katrina fatigue,” Peter King from Sports Illustrated writes, “What I saw was a national disgrace. An inexcusable, irresponsible, borderline criminal national disgrace….Damn right I’m ticked off. If you’re breathing, you should be morally outraged.”

A book that preserves testimony that might have disappeared amid the news cycles and Web overflow.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60801-108-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: UNO Press

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2015

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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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