Entertaining voyages into the geography of the imagination, from a sailor and journalist (Charting the Sea of Darkness, not reviewed). In the early days of cartography, islands came and islands went. Unable to plot longitude, explorers should have advised their mapmakers: Here there be islands, maybe. There were other reasons for these illusory shards of terra firma: mirages and delusions, shape-shifting mountains that emerged and then sank again beneath the waves, and offshore banks. In the North Atlantic, a few of these phantom isles have persisted in our imaginations—it is their story that Johnson relates. There is the Isle of Demons, said to be populated by beasts and evil spirits. Johnson fancies the demonic cries heard by mariners were those of nesting pelagic birds, perhaps on Funk Island. There is the curious disappearence of the inhabited island of Frisland, supposedly discovered by the 14th-century voyager Nicolo Zeno. Buss Island, frequently sighted by ships looking for the Northwest Passage, is now gone; was it just another ``false horizon created by the tricks and deceptive appearances of the Arctic atmosphere''? Consider Antilla, its seven cities home to seven refugee bishops, and Hy-Brazil, revealed once every seven years when its veil of fog lifts. Easily one of the best tales is that of Saint Ursula and her 11,000 virgin companions, martyred by Huns at the behest of the Roman emperor. The islands named after her are no phantoms—they sit clear as day in the Caribbean, tagged by Christoper Columbus—but her legend may well be, suggests Johnson. He pulls together as much as he can about vanished or fabulous islands, plumbing ancient texts for sightings and commentary, poring over early maps that chart the peregrinations of the islands, then serves up his findings with a light, bright touch. A feast for those who hunger after terra incognita. (35 maps and illustrations)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8027-1320-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1996

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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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