Good reading for the Baudrillard set—and for students of ’60s politics generally.




Scary radicals par excellence, the Black Panthers took pains to set the terms of their depiction in the media and popular culture—and apart from Forrest Gump, they were largely successful.

So notes Rhodes (American Studies/Macalester College) in this study of the shaping of the Panther image and icon. The N-word–charged scene in which Panthers shake down poor Tom Hanks notwithstanding—a scene that is “little more than a contrivance to highlight Gump’s innocence against the backdrop of such inflammatory rhetoric”—and the Panthers’ depiction of the media as lackeys of the ruling class and therefore enemies, the party was concerned to cultivate a heroic, positive image, at once defiant and statesmanlike. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, for instance, were careful to instruct the “pigs” that any attempt to crack down on their fellow Panthers or the black Bay Area neighborhoods in which they operated would be met with violence, insisting that their stance was defensive. The party was little known outside the Bay Area at first, but local sympathies were translated at a national level. Icons piled on icons—Rhodes notes that the famed photo of Newton seated with a shotgun in one hand and spear in the other went against his contempt for “black cultural nationalists’ embrace of African symbols,” but it made good suitable-for-framing revolutionary art all the same, picked up by the most mainstream of media. Most of Rhodes’s referents will be familiar to anyone who was present at the time, and her narrative seldom picks up above a scholarly trudge, but she does her readers a good turn by extending the Panther story to the present—for, as she reminds us, there are still old Panthers doing good deeds in the black community, even as Islamist “New Panthers” attempt to appropriate the old icons and images for their own causes.

Good reading for the Baudrillard set—and for students of ’60s politics generally.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-1-56584-961-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2007

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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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