Appleby presents the explosion of possibilities at the beginning of the 19th century in sparkling, jargon-free prose and...




A treasure-trove of information about the early Republic, recreating an era that mixed cultural and emotional chaos with unprecedented opportunities at all levels of society.

Appleby (history/UCLA) paints the early 19th century as a time of tumultuous expansion of individualism, economic growth, and political engagement. The “first generation,” born in the decades immediately following the revolution, applied their parents’ idealistic challenges to authority to the reinvention of politics, commerce, and intimate relationships. Although Appleby’s purpose is to examine social contexts rather than anomalous individuals, the materials she uses vividly evoke the lived experience of real people. Drawn from hundreds of diaries, letters, memoirs, and records of the obscure as well as the famous, her panorama comprises men and women, African-Americans and Europeans, and rich, middle-class, and poor Americans. Appleby dramatizes daily life in a brand-new nation in which dueling was an accepted form of political discourse, counterfeit currency was nearly as valuable as genuine, and young men and women sallied forth to adventures and careers their forebears could not have imagined. In the South, slavery promoted the concentration of wealth and a rigid caste system; in the more progressive North, new avenues to prosperity opened up with technological innovations and the aspirations that motivated them. Revolutionary ideals of cultural egalitarianism helped to spread the desire for literacy and “refinement” throughout the population, creating new opportunities for work in the business of culture. But entrepreneurial enterprise valued flexibility and originality at the expense of familial loyalty and continuity with the past, fraying the relationships that had sustained earlier generations. Throughout the nation, the post-revolution generation reinvented the notions of religion, family, and destiny, forging an ideology that celebrated individual autonomy and elevated self-improvement stories to the status of myth.

Appleby presents the explosion of possibilities at the beginning of the 19th century in sparkling, jargon-free prose and vibrant detail, producing an indispensable guide to a fascinating, turbulent time. (Illustrations.)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00236-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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