A well-rendered narrative about how one specific island’s fate stands as a warning for all coastal regions.

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CHESAPEAKE REQUIEM

A YEAR WITH THE WATERMEN OF VANISHING TANGIER ISLAND

Land and culture erode on an island in the Chesapeake Bay.

Journalist Swift (Auto Biography: A Classic Car, An Outlaw Motorhead, and 57 Years of the American Dream, 2014, etc.) spent more than a year on Tangier Island, among crab fishermen and their families, in 2000 and again in late fall 2015. In a graceful melding of history, nature writing, and perceptive cultural commentary, the author offers an affectionate portrait of the island and its “God-fearing, self-reliant,” close-knit residents—now numbering under 500. Although Tangier currently faces new social problems—drugs, alcohol (on an island defiantly dry), and loss of young people to the mainland—the island “is more Norman Rockwell than real American town, with morals intact, air fresh, and entertainments wholesome.” When Swift returned to the island in 2015 from his home in Virginia, he was particularly concerned with how Tangier was dealing with climate change that threatens to raise sea levels. Already, the island has shrunk from 2,163 acres, as documented in 1850, to 789. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicted that about a third of remaining acreage would vanish within the next 50 years without major intervention. Residents, however, ascribe topographical changes “solely to wind-driven waves, not climate change,” refusing to believe that accelerating winds were “a symptom of a global phenomenon.” Still, they feared for their future as crab fishermen. With hundreds of millions of crabs swimming by the island each year, Tangier supplies restaurants all along the east coast; New York, for example, pays handsomely for soft-shell crabs. Swift’s profiles of individuals are sharply drawn and empathetic, and he captures their frustration with government bureaucracy as they hope for federal financing of a sea wall. It will take a miracle, writes the author, for the Army Corps of Engineers and Congress to act “before a storm muscles up the bay and renders the whole thing moot.”

A well-rendered narrative about how one specific island’s fate stands as a warning for all coastal regions.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266139-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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