Ur-socialist Kolko tries—and fails—to come to grips with Vietnam's embrace of a market economy. Kolko (formerly of York Univ., Toronto) goes through hoops trying to explain why Vietnamese communism hasn't worked. In this weakly argued, tediously written tract, the author of Anatomy of a War (1986)—a fervidly anti-American history of the Vietnam War- -castigates a disparate group of socialist enemies, including ignorant, avaricious, market-loving Vietnamese communist apparatchiks, and officials of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), along with the capitalist, imperialist Americans who control them. Kolko, for example, calls Vietnam's Communist Party General Secretary Do Muoi ``an opportunistic, intellectually banal figure.'' Long-time Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet is power-hungry, a ``consummate cynic.'' Kiet's economist Nguyen Xuan Oanh is ``a consummate opportunist'' and a ``key link with the IMF.'' World Bank and IMF officials have blackmailed Vietnam, Kolko claims, offering much-needed loans to gain the ``prize'' of ``abolishing socialism.'' In prose that often reads like a rhetoric-strewn ultraradical political tract, Kolko concentrates on the economic changes that have come since 1985 with the introduction of liberalized market-economic reforms (read: capitalism). Although he calls the American war in Vietnam a ``terrible crime against humanity,'' Kolko ignores communist Vietnam's human-rights abuses, both during the war and since. He seems never to have heard the words ``re-education camps'' and skips very lightly over the current Vietnamese government's shortcomings, including press censorship and a still-strong secret police. An embarrassing attempt by Kolko—more socialist than Ho Chi Minh—to explain why his beloved Vietnamese communists have aided and abetted ``the ultimate American victory over socialism.''

Pub Date: July 14, 1997

ISBN: 0-415-15989-X

Page Count: 190

Publisher: Routledge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1997

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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