Readers who admire Davis’s work and that of the late Marc Reisner will find this fine entry in the library of apocalyptic...




Another compelling reason not to breathe in L.A.

Piper (English/Univ. of Missouri) grew up 50 miles from Owens Lake, Calif., “currently the worst source of dust pollution in the nation.” The lake, on the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, had ample water until the 1920s, when Los Angeles began to divert it to serve metropolitan needs 200 miles away, the subject of Roman Polanski’s classic film Chinatown. Piper examines how that film’s makers denatured it for fear of the city’s omnipotent utility department, which could not have found a more suitable source of water, politically speaking, since most of the residents of the Owens Lake area were poor Paiute Indians, who were easily displaced and powerless. The parched conditions unveiled fine dust particles that defy dust masks and grout, causing nightmarish autoimmune illnesses, asthma and other woes that are epidemic around the lake, affecting Anglos, Mexicans and Paiutes alike, to say nothing of the Japanese Americans interned during WWII at nearby Manzanar, locally famous as a place where “reduced visibility due to the dust led to the deaths of dozens of people in car crashes” and even prevented the military from tracking missiles fired during tests in the Mojave Desert. Challenged to undo some of the environmental damage it had wrought, L.A.’s Department of Water and Power proposed that Owens Lake be declared a “national ‘sacrifice area’ in order to overrule public trust law.” DWP was unsuccessful, so that parts of the lake are slowly being rehabilitated even as a similar disaster looms at the Salton Sea, closer still to the crowded metropolis. Throughout, Piper writes with prickly, if controlled, anger, much in the kindred spirit of Mark Davis’s City of Quartz, which bookends this neatly. The tone is fitting.

Readers who admire Davis’s work and that of the late Marc Reisner will find this fine entry in the library of apocalyptic Californiana of urgent interest.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2006

ISBN: 1-4039-6931-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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