With extensive details and a fond admiration of its people, Keahey effectively articulates why the people of this charming...

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SEEKING SICILY

A CULTURAL JOURNEY THROUGH MYTH AND REALITY IN THE HEART OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

Veteran newspaperman Keahey continues his exploration of Italian civilization with an appreciation of the rich, vibrant surroundings of Italy’s largest autonomous island.

Having previously explored both the Ionian Sea region and the disastrous fate of an ever-sinking Venice (Venice Against the Sea: A City Besieged, 2002), the author turns his journalistic eye toward Sicily, a “strange, magnificent, brooding island." Keahey meticulously observes the history, colorful customs and culture of Sicilians with boundless curiosity. He climbs the rickety scaffolding in capital city Palermo to capture the best view of the palazzo compound of taciturn Sicilian novelist Giuseppe di Lampedusa. He shares a stroll through a cuisine cornucopia at Vucciria marketplace and observes the region’s many unwieldy, grandiose festivals and processions honoring patron saints and Easter Week. After illuminating the island’s varying economic strata, Keahey retraces the fascinating history of village squares once used for public burnings and the restoration of a local prison. Some of his sightseeing is informally guided by indigenous “Siciliani,” an assemblage of prideful natives whose characteristics the author describes with the same spirited deliberation as chapters on myths, food, native dialects and the histrionics of the Sicilian Mafiosi. In a superbly sensory chapter, Keahey marvels at variations in Sicilian cuisine with mouthwatering descriptions flooding the pages of this lush travelogue.

With extensive details and a fond admiration of its people, Keahey effectively articulates why the people of this charming island “are Sicilians before they are Italians, and why no amount of time under the control of Rome will ever change that.”

Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-59705-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2011

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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