A worthy companion to Jay Monahan’s Custer, Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star and other standard studies of the...

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A TERRIBLE GLORY

CUSTER AND THE LITTLE BIGHORN--THE LAST GREAT BATTLE OF THE AMERICAN WEST

Comprehensive account of George Custer’s career.

Dallas-based literary agent Donovan does much kind service to Custer, who has long been without champions. We think of Custer as vainglorious and foolhardy, thanks in great measure to Arthur Penn’s 1970 film Little Big Man; only a vain man would have dressed like a longhaired gypsy dandy and gone galloping off to fight every Indian in the West, right? Donovan finds the upside: Custer dressed colorfully and wore his hair long in the interest of conspicuousness, reasoning that “if his men saw their commanding officer share the danger, they would fight even harder.” He always made a point to be at the head of the action, golden locks and bright red scarf gleaming. There was a reason that Custer was the youngest general in the Union Army. At places such as Gettysburg, he distinguished himself by brave action against heavy odds, and his Michigan horsemen “quickly earned a reputation as the best brigade in the cavalry corps.” Yet something seems to have happened to Custer out West. He shared the general disdain of the white soldiers for their Indian opponents, hubris that cost a young captain named William Fetterman and his men their lives and set in motion the events that would culminate in Little Bighorn—and later, Wounded Knee. But Donovan is no agenda-laden, blind defender of Custer; he carefully notes the results of the inquiry that followed the famed slaughter, when Custer’s commanding general damned him for “negligence and outright insubordination.” His thoroughgoing account lends considerable humanity to all involved, from the Hunkpapa warrior Rain-in-the-Face to the ordinary privates who died with Custer on that hot June day in Montana.

A worthy companion to Jay Monahan’s Custer, Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star and other standard studies of the famed cavalryman.

Pub Date: March 24, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-316-15578-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2008

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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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