A lively contribution to popular histories of New York and its institutions, worthy of shelving alongside Robert Caro’s The...



An eye-opening history of the Manhattan hospital whose name is a byword for asylums everywhere.

If a person is taken to Bellevue, it’s never for good reasons. It is the hospital where sick homeless people, injured construction workers, and wounded cops and robbers come, scooped up from all over Manhattan, with elite wards for the elite and less-than-elite wards for the rest. In that sense, writes Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Oshinsky (History/New York Univ., and Medical Humanities/NYU School of Medicine; Polio: An American Story, 2010, etc.), “Bellevue is a microcosm of the city it serves.” It has made news for generations, in recent years for housing John Lennon’s assassin but also for having been the death place for Stephen Foster, O. Henry, and Lead Belly. That familiarity in the popular culture, notes the author, comes at a price, for though Bellevue has an ineradicable reputation, it is the definitive public hospital, treating rich and poor, attending to every conceivable malady, its doctors researching epidemics, ushering in public health reforms, and dispensing wisdom (“Work and keep out of the easy chair….Don’t eat too much meat”). From the ER to the Insane Pavilion (“Imagines Himself a Mosquito—Now an Inmate at Bellevue,” reads one headline of yore), Oshinsky’s account focuses on people. Anecdotal, its learning lightly worn, it makes a fine complement to the medical writing of Atul Gawande and Richard Selzer. It is also full of discoveries. For instance, it should come as no comfort to anyone that electroshock therapy, in which Bellevue was a pioneer, had its origins in the electrical stun guns used to stun pigs before they were slaughtered; it looks humane, Oshinsky suggests, only against other “therapies” such as lobotomy, and it was applied to thousands of patients, “many of them children.”

A lively contribution to popular histories of New York and its institutions, worthy of shelving alongside Robert Caro’s The Power Broker and Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace’s Gotham.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-52336-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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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

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