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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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