A quirky, affectionate portrait by an unabashed Francophile.



A longtime resident of Paris muses on the city he loves.

As in previous similar books, Baxter (Montparnasse: Paris's District of Memory and Desire, 2017, etc.) proves to be an amiable guide to Paris, where he has lived for nearly 30 years. Evoking history, literature, observations on nature, and digressions on food, customs, and culture, the author ambles through the city, conveying his heartfelt admiration for the French way of life. “We who live in Paris are used to living by the weather and the seasons,” he writes. Unlike America, where New York’s supermarkets feature strawberries in January, the French eagerly anticipate asparagus, stone fruit, and wintry stews at just the right moment. In food, “as in most things, the essence of pleasure resides in timing.” Baxter anchors his Parisian rambles with a tale of the Republican calendar, devised by Philippe François Nazaire Fabre d'Églantine, an actor and self-promoter who became George Danton’s private secretary. Given the task of updating the calendar, beginning in 1792, immodestly designated Year One, Fabre lengthened the hour from 60 to 100 minutes and extended the week from 7 days to 10. Three weeks made a month, and each month was named to reflect the natural world: Floréal, the month of flowers; Prairial, for meadows; Vendemiaire, for the harvest; Nivôse, a winter month, when it snowed—in Paris, but not in the sunny south; followed by Pluviôse, when it rained; and Ventôse, when the winds blew. The calendar was generally ignored, and Fabre met his fate at the guillotine. For Baxter, however, there was something poetic about evoking in the name of the month “the sensual possibilities of the greatest country in the world.” Besides reprising France’s bloody revolutions, the author creates assorted vignettes of Paris past and present: mimes and buskers, politicians’ links to nature (Mitterand preferred roses, Chirac, apples), the inspiration for the song “April in Paris,” the city’s various public pools, and the urban legend of a subterranean crocodile.

A quirky, affectionate portrait by an unabashed Francophile.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-284688-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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