A welcome, unique addition to our travel literature.



Relying largely on first-person accounts, Chaplin (History/Harvard Univ.; The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius, 2006, etc.) pieces together a centuries-old story: our obsession with circling the globe.

The notion goes back to the ancient Greeks and the myth of Phaeton, whose planetary circling has been duplicated by such fictional characters as Shakespeare’s Puck, Milton’s Satan and Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg. Throughout her witty, highly readable chronicle of real-life adventurers, Chaplin pays tribute to these globe-trotters and to authors like Defoe, Coleridge, Poe, Twain, London and DeLillo, who have mined the idea of circumnavigation for its dramatic possibilities. She divides her planetary drama into three acts: first, from Magellan to Captain Cook, when the overriding theme of an around-the-world voyage was death—a shocking mortality rate accompanied almost every attempt; second, from the 1780s to the 1920s, an age marked by confidence, when technologies and political arrangements had sufficiently advanced so as to moderate the risk; third, our own era, in which the perils of air and space have reintroduced the dangers, where doubt has crept back into any calculation of safe return. Chock-full of famous names and crowded with lots of “firsts” (first woman, first American, first cyclist, first motor car, first nuclear sub) Chaplin’s story features grand enterprises (Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet), solo stunts (Francis Chichester’s tiny sailboat, Gipsy Moth) and even animals (Cook’s famous goat and the Soviet dog Laika). The sheer scale of the endeavor, the singular space, time and mind-warping nature of circumnavigation, almost guarantees interesting reading, but Chaplin, an informed and perceptive guide, adds greatly to the fun.

A welcome, unique addition to our travel literature.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9619-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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