Fenster is a superb storyteller, taking the factual information of the race and investing it with wit and brio. A race like...

RACE OF THE CENTURY

THE HEROIC TRUE STORY OF THE 1908 NEW YORK TO PARIS AUTO RACE

A natty reconstruction of the famous round-the-world auto race.

When the contraption was only in its 20th year, six cars undertook to drive from New York to Paris the long way, 22,000 miles west from the starting point. Journalist Fenster (Mavericks, Miracles, and Medicine, 2003) has a charging style that suits the race to a tee, right from the blatting eruption of engines in Times Square. First, though, she covers the stakes involved: how the French wanted to maintain the dominance they’d established in the Peking to Paris race a year earlier; how the Germans wanted to display the aura of plenty that glowed on the Old Germany; how the Americans strove to demonstrate the pluck of their new industry. But where Fenster shines is in describing the terrain of the race. Roads were crude affairs in 1908, and service stations, of course, nonexistent. The idea was to drive across the Bering Strait, though circumstances demanded the drivers take boats instead, and what they met in the Far East, from bogs to bandits, was enough to make up for that bit of ease. After thousands of miles, what it boiled down to was a race between the German car and the American, with attendant displays of sportsmanship. Bad roads, when there were roads at all, were the least of the racers’ troubles: they had to contend with hunger when they weren’t being fêted; with wrong turns; insurrection; endless dank forests and the simple, terrifying fear of being plain lost. All this Fenster conveys with immediacy, including the cold, the mud and the essentially suicidal route, where local inhabitants could be more dangerous than the murderous lay of the land.

Fenster is a superb storyteller, taking the factual information of the race and investing it with wit and brio. A race like this, almost otherworldly in its setting, has much potential, and Fenster taps into every mile of it. (Six photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-609-61096-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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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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