Soggy with mysticism and openly contemptuous of contemporary civilization, but still Waterman remains a charming, if...




A kayaker’s lonely but ultimately uplifting diary of a 2,200-mile solo exploration of the Arctic Circle’s fabled Northwest Passage, and of the varied Inuit inhabitants he met along the way.

Seeking to prove his mettle, make a television documentary, and learn more about the lives of the Inuit, seasoned outdoorsman Waterman (A Most Hostile Mountain, 1997, etc.) packs up his kayak, a Global Positioning Satellite transponder, food, changes of clothes, a few flare guns, and some ancient shaman’s stones to spend three consecutive summers (he spent the winters at home in Colorado) paddling and sometimes dragging his boat and sled across the top of Canada into Alaska. An experienced kayaker, the author used his modified version of the ancient Inuit craft to probe a surreally unforgiving landscape of marauding bears and mosquitos so thirsty they can drain a man of his blood in a matter of hours. He lingers for days at a time with hospitable but intensely private groups of Inuit, whose fragile ecosystem and peculiar oral culture have been nearly destroyed by incursions of both rapacious and well-meaning kabloona (“bushy-eyebrows,” Inuit slang for Caucasians). When not suffering bouts of hydrothermia and nagiarneq (“kayak angst,” a madness that comes from being too often literally and metaphorically at sea), the author’s encounters with the Inuit are mostly positive, and he ends up mourning the terrible consequences of disease, alcohol, pollution, inept environmental rulings, oil exploitation, and other misguided kabloona concerns on a people he finds noble but in no way savage.

Soggy with mysticism and openly contemptuous of contemporary civilization, but still Waterman remains a charming, if occasionally bumbling, host on a stirring outdoor adventure. (104 photos and illustrations, with 8 color pages, not seen)

Pub Date: April 6, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-40409-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2001

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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