Highly useful to scholars, and certain to excite discussion and even controversy, Kaiser's book is a valuable contribution.




An important addition to the sad—and growing—library devoted to the Vietnam war.

Kaiser is a longtime professor of strategy and policy at the Naval War College—an important qualification, given the provocative news he brings in this heavily documented tome. Kaiser's argument runs counter to what in some quarters is now received wisdom: that Eisenhower was reluctant to involve Americans in Vietnam; that his successor, Kennedy, was a hawk in liberal's clothing. Kaiser modifies that view, writing that military commitment in Vietnam was a natural result of the Eisenhower administration's policy of global anticommunist containment—and that Kennedy, himself a former officer, was a cautious critic of the Pentagon, which had gladly taken on the opportunity to flex its military muscle and test out new ordnance in a faraway place. After Kennedy's assassination, Kaiser continues, Lyndon Johnson followed Eisenhower's lead to give the military essentially free rein, trusting Kennedy administration alumnus Robert McNamara to guide him truthfully—something, Kaiser and many other historians tell us, that McNamara willfully failed to do. As a result, Kaiser writes, ``Johnson undertook the war without giving much consideration to the damage it would do to other aspects of American foreign policy'' and indeed allowed it to dominate his presidency, despite frequent warnings from confidants such as Hubert Humphrey that the time had come to cut and run. Critical of the Pentagon, and convinced that Eisenhower's policy was doomed to fail, Kaiser warns that until North Vietnamese archives are available to scholars we can have no way of knowing how closely Ho Chi Minh's policy was bound to dictates from Moscow or Beijing—the fear of which provided the argument for containment in the first place.

Highly useful to scholars, and certain to excite discussion and even controversy, Kaiser's book is a valuable contribution.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00225-3

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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