A welcome addition to Bloomsbury’s Urban Historical series, shimmering with dabs of color that bring the entire portrait to...

GHOSTY MEN

THE STRANGE BUT TRUE STORY OF THE COLLYER BROTHERS, NEW YORK’S GREATEST HOARDERS

Poignant, dark-humored account of the brothers who transported 140 tons of street stuff to their Harlem brownstone.

Homer and Langley Collyer lived at 128th Street and Fifth Avenue from 1909 until their deaths in 1947. They became ever more reclusive as the neighborhood went shabby on them, barricading and booby-trapping their home with midnight street pickings, creating a sanctuary of junk. But their unusual behavior, explains Sports Illustrated senior writer Lidz (Unstrung Heroes, 1991), was not lost on human-interest pages of the New York press, in particular Helen Worden, a reporter on the old World-Telegram who turned the odd fellows into a news story. The Collyers became known as the Hermits of Harlem, objects of attention to stone-throwing neighborhood children, to burglars, and ultimately to a rogues’ company of sheriffs, taxmen, and bank goons who wanted them out of the area. In Lidz’s hands, the brothers are unexpectedly sympathetic characters. Langley gave far from mad answers when questioned about his lack of a phone (“there’s no one in particular I want to talk to”), his crummy clothes (“dressed like this, no one ever molests me”), the bulwarks of junk (“the truth is that I barricade the windows to keep thieves out”). The author interlaces the story of his own Uncle Arthur, another substantial packrat, whom the youthful Lidz admired “for his commitment to extreme squalor,” his rejection of order and convention. Maybe touched, maybe crazy, these men defy Freudian analysis; Lidz’s sympathetic evaluation makes more sense: “They tried to build personal utopias behind drawn shades and locked shutters from oddments of their own childhood, mementos of their families, and parapets of newspapers . . . they found themselves trapped by their own fantasies.”

A welcome addition to Bloomsbury’s Urban Historical series, shimmering with dabs of color that bring the entire portrait to life.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-58234-311-X

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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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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