Anderson provides plenty of fodder for academic audiences.




An exuberant tour of cities, real and imaginary, far and wide.

An epigraph from Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities—“Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears…everything conceals something else”—sets the stage for Scotland-based Irish writer Anderson’s (Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson, 2013, etc.) “diminished non-fiction mirror” of Calvino’s book. Though Anderson lacks the Italian master’s poetic style, he makes up for it with energy and learning. He notes that a history of “ever-changing cities, whether real or unreal, must also be a history of the imagination.” Anderson’s approach owes much to the psychogeography school of thought and the seminal works of Borges and W.G. Sebald and recent writers like Iain Sinclair and Will Self. Rather than walk his cities, Anderson draws upon a postmodernist mashup of history, literature, film, art, philosophy, architecture, video games, and pop culture to weave in and out of them. A distant cousin to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, Anderson’s idiosyncratic and loosely organized compendium is filled to the brim with quotes and references. He opens with Marco Polo and his tales of the many cities he visited, real and fanciful. Then it’s off to Coleridge and his laudanum-infused city of Xanadu. Anderson then quickly infuses his commentary with Homer, engraver Theorodor de Brys, and poet Comte de Lautréamont by way of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Then comes Goya, De Quincey, and Doré, all in the space of three pages. Written in an aphoristic, epigrammatic style, Anderson’s cascade of language and sources borders on the rambling. His discussions about cities and how they have been created and explored in history and myth become hard to follow. There’s much to admire here, but the sheer mass of information—and hundreds of footnotes, many quite fascinating (“the subliminal sense of unease towards pleasure parks is evident in the ease with which it is turned into dystopia—Westworld, The Prisoner, Eurobosch, Tommy’s Holiday Camp”)—often overwhelms.

Anderson provides plenty of fodder for academic audiences.

Pub Date: April 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-226-47030-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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