A wonderful account that reveals as much about us as it does about the colorful man who is its subject. (132 b&w...




A fine, entertaining, scholarly study of one of the beloved (if, until now, little-understood) figures of American history—and of how he affected our image of ourselves.

Mention the name “Buffalo Bill” (born William F. Cody), and a great circus-like show, with Indians and gunfighters, comes immediately to mind. According to Kasson (History/Univ. of North Carolina), that image constitutes only a fraction of Cody’s influence upon American culture. In her captivating study, she is not content merely to give us a fresh biography of the man who was a writer of dime novels, a great showman, an energetic (if often frustrated) businessman, one of the nation’s first celebrities, and (believe it or not) a figure of the 20th century. She also reveals the extraordinary influence and following he had among millions (including Queen Victoria), both here and abroad. It was Buffalo Bill’s shows that indelibly inscribed on people’s minds their image of the American West, of its native inhabitants, and of human character on the western trail. Cody’s appeal and success seem almost foreordained, for his showmanship owed as much to his times as it did to his skill in sensing what his contemporaries wanted. A veteran of the Civil War and the Indians campaigns, Buffalo Bill (in Kasson’s view) offered authenticity to Americans fearful about the closing of the frontier, the rise of cities and industry, and the decline of individual freedom. Here was a man of courage and integrity (he fought for us), a democrat of sorts (employing Sitting Bull and Annie Oakley with dignity and respect), and a self-made entertainer who, like P.T. Barnum, purveyed much bunkum while putting on a plain good show. One of Kasson’s most significant contributions is her explanation of what today’s world of entertainment, as well as our era’s packaging of history as fun, owes to this single figure.

A wonderful account that reveals as much about us as it does about the colorful man who is its subject. (132 b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8090-3243-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

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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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