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




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...


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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