Provocative reading for this semicentennial year.

READ REVIEW

THE KENNEDY HALF-CENTURY

THE PRESIDENCY, ASSASSINATION, AND LASTING LEGACY OF JOHN F. KENNEDY

Half a century later, Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullets still reverberate, as Sabato (Politics/Univ. of Virginia; Pendulum Swing, 2012, etc.) recounts in this thoughtful consideration of John Kennedy’s life and afterlife.

The author provides a smart précis of JFK’s political career, which had plenty of odd moments: his taking on the followers of the Protestant positive-thinking guru Norman Vincent Peale, for instance, which tied in to the anti-Catholic prejudices of the day, and his subsequent decision to “reduce the impact of the religious issue by going into the lion’s den” to speak before a convention of evangelical ministers. Yet Sabato’s greater interest is to examine the events of November 22, 1963, and their effects. No breathless conspiracy theorist, he nonetheless offers plenty of fuel for readers who subscribe to the notion that Oswald was not alone. Why, unlike Lyndon Johnson’s vehicle, did a Secret Service agent not ride on the rear bumper of JFK’s car? Doing so would alone have blocked Oswald’s shot. The central point of the book comes midway, when Sabato writes, “It has taken fifty years to see part of the truth clearly. John F. Kennedy’s assassination might have been almost inevitable.” Sabato hazards the view that, of Kennedy’s many enemies, one who particularly wanted to see him dead was Jimmy Hoffa, the labor leader, who speculated about shooting the president somewhere in the segregationist Deep South. Ronald Reagan, for his part, laid out the “case for a Communist conspiracy” by observing both Oswald’s connections to Cuba and the Soviet Union and the fact that in 1962, the Cold War went close to becoming dangerously hot. Whatever the case, Kennedy served at a time of considerable danger to any president, with a roiling civil rights crisis, religious prejudice, a fraught international climate and “a shockingly casual approach to presidential security.”

Provocative reading for this semicentennial year.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-62040-280-1

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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