Majestic, spellbinding treatment of a mass killer.

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THE GREAT INFLUENZA

THE EPIC STORY OF THE DEADLIEST PLAGUE IN HISTORY

A keen recounting of the 1918–20 pandemic.

This deadly global flu outbreak has gotten hazy in the public memory, and its origins and character were unclear from the beginning, writes popular historian Barry (Rising Tide, 1997, etc.). But influenza tore apart the world’s social fabric for two long years, and it would be a mistake to forget its lessons. (It also tore apart the American medical establishment—but that was for the good.) With the same terrorizing flair of Richard Preston’s Hot Zone, the author follows the disease in the way he might shadow a mugger, presenting us with the vivid aftereffects as if from Weegee’s camera: “Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.” But Barry is not interested simply in hugely disturbing numbers. He charts how the pandemic brought a measure of scientific maturity to the medical world and profiles such important personalities as Paul Lewis and William Henry Welch, institutions like Johns Hopkins, the Rockefeller Institute, and the Red Cross. He covers with an easy touch the evolution in our understanding of viral disease and the strides that have been made to counter its effects, such as vaccines. He watches the flu spread until there aren’t enough coffins to house the bodies, and he watches as the military fails to alert the general public because the brass feared it would hurt wartime morale. Influenza appears to have spread like a prairie fire from a military base in Kansas throughout the world, thanks to WWI troop deployment and the disease’s highly contagious nature. There was nowhere to hide, Barry chillingly explains: “It now seemed as if there had never been life before the epidemic. The disease informed every action of every person.” Emerging viruses, including new strains of flu, will likely visit us again.

Majestic, spellbinding treatment of a mass killer.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2004

ISBN: 0-670-89473-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2003

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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