Fans of bicycling and how-the-world-works reportage alike will find this a great pleasure.

TWO WHEELS GOOD

THE HISTORY AND MYSTERY OF THE BICYCLE

A lively social history of the bicycle.

As New York Times Magazine feature writer Rosen observes in this good-natured narrative, the bicycle has always been viewed through a complex moral lens. In China, where “the number of bicycles manufactured this year…will exceed the total worldwide production of automobiles,” it was viewed as a great equalizer—but then, when car culture took hold, as something of an anachronism confined to the poor, and now, in a time of inequality, a status symbol for the wealthy and their expensive machines. Just so, as the author notes, there’s always been a tension between “bicycle love and bicycle loathing” in the Western world, where the bicycle and its forerunners were heralded as cleaner than animal-drawn vehicles and criticized for such things as showing off a little too much leg. Rosen chronicles his travels around the world to look at bicycle culture. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, which has some of the most tangled traffic jams anywhere, countless bicycle rickshaws underscore the fact that the machine is usually meant for labor and not recreation and that “the most widespread form of freight cycling is the one devoted to human cargo.” Back home in New York, Rosen risks life and limb to travel a city in which “bicycle infrastructure is inadequate, and cy­clists are forced into roaring traffic on streets where motorists oper­ate with something close to impunity.” At the same time, however, bicycling is “the best way to comprehend and imbibe New York.” The author delivers the goods lightly and always interestingly. His opening, for instance, concerns the origins of the rubber tire thanks to the tinkering of a Belfast veterinarian tired of bumpy cobblestones, and the discussion of the worldwide bicycle-theft epidemic is eye-opening: Most locks are easily thwarted and law enforcement indifferent, all good reason to follow Rosen’s lead and buy only inexpensive bikes.

Fans of bicycling and how-the-world-works reportage alike will find this a great pleasure.

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-804-14149-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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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Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

PIRATE ENLIGHTENMENT, OR THE REAL LIBERTALIA

The final book from the longtime activist anthropologist.

In a lively display of up-to-date anthropology, Graeber (1961-2020) offers a behind-the-scenes view of how a skilled researcher extracts knowledge from the slimmest evidence about a long-ago multiethnic society composed of pirates and settled members of existing communities. In this posthumous book, the author turns to 17th- and 18th-century Madagascar and examines hard-to-credit sources to tease out some plausible facts about the creation and early life of a distinctive Indian Ocean society, some of whose Malagasy descendants (“the Zana-Malata”) are alive today. Exhibiting his characteristic politically tinged sympathies, Graeber describes the pirates who plied the seas and settled on Madagascar as an ethno-racially integrated proletariat “spearheading the development of new forms of democratic governance.” He also argues that many of the pirates and others displayed European Enlightenment ideas even though they inhabited “a very unlikely home for Enlightenment political experiments.” Malagasies were “Madagascar’s most stubbornly egalitarian peoples,” and, as the author shows, women played significant roles in the society, which reflected Jewish, Muslin, Ismaili, and Gnostic origins as well as native Malagasy and Christian ones. All of this information gives Graeber the chance to wonder, in his most provocative conjecture, whether Enlightenment ideals might have emerged as much beyond Western lands as within them. His argument that pirates, women traders, and community leaders in early 18th-century Madagascar were “global political actors in the fullest sense of the term” is overstated, but even with such excesses taken into account, the text is a tour de force of anthropological scholarship and an important addition to Malagasy history. It’s also a work written with a pleasingly light touch. The principal audience will be anthropologists, but those who love pirate lore or who seek evidence that mixed populations were long capable of establishing proto-democratic societies will also find enlightenment in these pages.

Certain to be controversial, but all the more important for that.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-374-61019-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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