A genial historical tour conducted by an affectionate docent with a keen eye and an admiring though sometimes-admonitory...

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BUENOS AIRES

THE BIOGRAPHY OF A CITY

A freelance journalist specializing in architecture debuts with a general architectural history of one of the world’s most intriguing cities.

Gardner, once the art critic for the New York Post, first visited Buenos Aires in 1999 and fell in love with the architectural diversity of the city. He acknowledges that his is not a scholarly approach, but it’s evident throughout that he has done a scholar’s homework. The author does some expected things—e.g., writing about the geographical and geological history of the pampas and a bit about the political history of the city, which both caused and is reflected by many of the city’s structures. Gardner notes that the city’s flatness encouraged the earliest settlers to lay out a strict grid with wide streets, an outline that remains. Proceeding chronologically, the author includes numerous photographs (readers will wish for more—and for city maps, which are oddly absent). His approach is generally more expository that judgmental, though he does not hesitate to praise the beautiful and disdain the less so, and he reserves some special venom for the historical period (last century) when dictators ruled and misruled. He necessarily deals with some economic history, as well, noting the slave markets from centuries past and showing how the country’s economy accelerated when refrigerated shipping made possible the lucrative trade in cattle. He also shows Argentina and its capital as hosts to myriads of immigrants. Although the author discusses some architectural terminology—beaux-arts, modernism, and the brutalist style—he is careful to explain and to give examples. At one point, commenting on the architectural beauty of much of the city, he comments that even the brothels were stylish. He describes waterfront development, the arrival of the railroad, and the building of the marginally necessary subway.

A genial historical tour conducted by an affectionate docent with a keen eye and an admiring though sometimes-admonitory message.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1137279880

Page Count: 272

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2015

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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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