A delightful time capsule, skillfully unpacked.



With the Great Depression subsiding and Europe headed for war, New York City threw a party. It didn’t go well.

The theme of the 1939 World’s Fair was “The World of Tomorrow.” Plagued by ferocious rain storms, withering heat waves, labor disputes, power outages, lower-than-expected attendance and weak revenues, the fair’s glittering vision of the future nevertheless managed to amaze most of its 45 million attendees, even as they nervously consumed the news from overseas. Recounting the exposition’s wonders and woes, former Cosmopolitan executive editor Mauro spices his story with tales of visiting presidents, kings, queens, politicians, sports heroes and movie stars. He wonderfully elaborates on the fair’s movers and shakers: feisty Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, imperious and scheming Parks Commissioner Robert Moses and businessman Harvey Gibson, whose feckless application of “homey touches” to the proceedings embarrassed the city’s official greeter and fair president, the pretentious and beleaguered Grover Whalen. Demonstrating how real-world events intruded upon the fair’s assertions of sweetness and light, Mauro follows the careers of two policemen killed removing a bomb from the British Pavilion, and he tracks the activities of Albert Einstein, a three-time Fair visitor. Voluntarily in exile from Germany, the physicist abandoned his well-known pacifism, authoring a letter to Franklin Roosevelt warning about Hitler’s atomic-bomb program, a notification that eventually inspired the Manhattan Project. Before the end of the fair’s first season, many of the countries represented on its grounds were at war. Mauro’s story will likely appeal to fans of Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City (2003), but readers should know that the crime element plays less heavily here.

A delightful time capsule, skillfully unpacked.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-345-51214-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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