Fine work that will leave most readers with even higher esteem for firefighters.

FIREHOUSE

Peeled emotional energy characterizes this portrait by Halberstam (War in a Time of Peace, 2001, etc.) of a firehouse that lost 12 of 13 men in the initial response to the World Trade Center attack.

It’s a difficult story to tell from almost every angle. The notoriously insular firefighting community doesn't accept strangers in its midst, let alone confide in an outsider, and most of the subjects are dead. Halberstam is striving to achieve sympathetic yet realistic characterizations of men he never met, most of whom were very young. So it’s quite an achievement that the author manages to get into the soul of Engine 40, Ladder 35, to give a glimpse of what it meant for these men to be firefighters. He nails the pride and purposefulness with which firefighters view their work, and how that sense of mission and honor melded the house into a family—a word that is not a metaphor here, since more than once the author informs us that someone was “a fireman's son and a fireman's grandson,” with brothers and cousins thrown into the act. The profession’s unique requirements, norms, and traditions seem to have passed through the generations like some DNA-driven imperative to create firefighters’ preternatural calm, their selflessness, and their simple, extraordinary willingness to troop straight into danger while others are streaming away from it. Although the firehouse is a raw, exposed environment (“everyone knows everything about everyone, and therefore nothing can be faked”), it’s not easy to draw out these men to speak of their dead comrades. Understandably, some portraits are more rounded than others, but only a few are pastiches of impressions that fail to jell. More often, the descriptions click, Halberstam succeeds in bringing his subjects back to life, and we ache as we suddenly remember that this man is no more.

Fine work that will leave most readers with even higher esteem for firefighters.

Pub Date: June 3, 2002

ISBN: 1-4013-0005-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • National Book Award Winner

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

more