A delight for New York aficionados. Every city needs a version of this artist and her book.

TENEMENTS, TOWERS & TRASH

AN UNCONVENTIONAL ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF NEW YORK CITY

In busy cartoons and archly entertaining prose, New Yorker artist Wertz (Museum of Mistakes, 2014, etc.) serves up a grandly alternative history of Gotham.

There was a time, not so long ago, when Times Square was a locus of hookers and nude dance shows rather than Disney-fied tourist traps. More pointedly, writes the author, it was “a garbage covered shithole full of strip clubs, porn theaters and seedy characters”—which, naturally, she characterizes as representing “the good old days.” As Wertz cautions, the sordidness hasn’t entirely disappeared; you just have to know what to look for, and then look. This graphic book, rendered in a style that seems a distant cousin to that of Roz Chast, is all about looking. Wertz is a transplant from the Bay Area who came to New York, found her nirvana, and began exploring the history and actuality of the place. It’s a tragic note that, evicted from her studio in an up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood, she couldn’t find affordable digs anywhere in the city and returned to California, where she discovered that “it was an absolute fucking torture drawing and writing about a city I no longer lived in but desperately loved.” It’s easy to gauge that affection from her pages, which recount long walks through the city fueled by a steady diet of histories and trivia (“Pinball was banned in NYC until 1978! It was a ‘pinball prohibition,’ and officials would smash the machines with sledgehammers, and dump them in the river”) that she recounts in ever salty prose. Wertz, for instance, revisits the history of the many instances of Ray’s Pizza, a synecdoche of a kind: founded by mobsters as a money-laundering site, the operation became legit in the hands of immigrants who worked there, quit, and opened their own versions of the place, name and all, so that there are now somewhere between 20 and 40 unrelated Ray’s outlets in the city.

A delight for New York aficionados. Every city needs a version of this artist and her book.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-50121-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Black Dog & Leventhal

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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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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