BAREBACK!

ONE MAN'S JOURNEY ALONG THE PONY EXPRESS TRAIL

Aimless account of the several months Ellis spent retracing the route of the Pony Express riders from St. Joseph, Missouri, to San Francisco. As in Walking the Trail (1991), the part-Cherokee author again uses events, landscapes, and personalities from his travels as inspiration for reminiscences about his hell-raising youth. But where Ellis's earlier work, detailing his trek along the 900-mile Cherokee ``Trail of Tears,'' achieved emotional and historical resonance because of his own Native American heritage, this new book has no such compelling raison d'àtre—despite the author's proclamation that he's admired the Pony Express since boyhood. Signing on with a ``covered wagon train,'' Ellis learns that he's joined a mismanaged, ill-conceived expedition made up of a ragtag collection of wagons, campers, and recreation vehicles. Soon alienated from the group, he strikes out on his own and meets a variety of fellow travelers—a poet-bartender; wilting ``flower children''; a young, pregnant Austrian woman with whom he has a brief affair; and, perhaps most divertingly, ``The Rabbit Man,'' a gentle semi-recluse who's addicted to Eskimo Pies and who's been holed up in a Kansas storm cellar. But most of those whom Ellis meets remain colorless on the page, while his tone drifts into sentiment—as in his observation, upon meeting an elderly man, of ``how short and precious life is.'' Throughout, the author intersperses excerpts from Sir Richard Burton's journal of a similar trip—though the analogies do little to enliven or clarify Ellis's experiences. Maybe Ellis should have bought a saddle—as it is, he falls off this nag of a book, hard.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 1993

ISBN: 0-385-30586-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1993

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science...

A SHORT HISTORY OF NEARLY EVERYTHING

Bryson (I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999, etc.), a man who knows how to track down an explanation and make it confess, asks the hard questions of science—e.g., how did things get to be the way they are?—and, when possible, provides answers.

As he once went about making English intelligible, Bryson now attempts the same with the great moments of science, both the ideas themselves and their genesis, to resounding success. Piqued by his own ignorance on these matters, he’s egged on even more so by the people who’ve figured out—or think they’ve figured out—such things as what is in the center of the Earth. So he goes exploring, in the library and in company with scientists at work today, to get a grip on a range of topics from subatomic particles to cosmology. The aim is to deliver reports on these subjects in terms anyone can understand, and for the most part, it works. The most difficult is the nonintuitive material—time as part of space, say, or proteins inventing themselves spontaneously, without direction—and the quantum leaps unusual minds have made: as J.B.S. Haldane once put it, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.” Mostly, though, Bryson renders clear the evolution of continental drift, atomic structure, singularity, the extinction of the dinosaur, and a mighty host of other subjects in self-contained chapters that can be taken at a bite, rather than read wholesale. He delivers the human-interest angle on the scientists, and he keeps the reader laughing and willing to forge ahead, even over their heads: the human body, for instance, harboring enough energy “to explode with the force of thirty very large hydrogen bombs, assuming you knew how to liberate it and really wished to make a point.”

Loads of good explaining, with reminders, time and again, of how much remains unknown, neatly putting the death of science into perspective.

Pub Date: May 6, 2003

ISBN: 0-7679-0817-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2003

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