However, committed lay readers and serious students of the event and the surrounding Victorianexpansionist milieu will...




A remarkably detailed and reconstructed account of the era and events surrounding the Seventh Cavalry’s infamous loss under General George Armstrong Custer that largely succeeds in ameliorating the General’s equally infamous culpability by exploring the gray areas and forgotten facts of this archetypical American disaster.

Sklenar spent six years researching the subject of his debut, and his efforts result in a singular, if dense, verisimilitude. He begins by sketching Custer’s curious origins, in which his rapid post–Civil War rise as a “boy general” sharply contrasts with the era’s downsized, spiritually degraded military. In seeming retreat from Reconstruction, Custer’s army pursued an increasingly draining series of wars of attrition against various tribes (primarily Sioux and Apache) in the Western territories. Sklenar demonstrates that Custer’s gloryhungry nature (also depicted as alternatively plucky and foolhardy) meshed badly with a largely weary and resentful officer corps: herein lay the circumstances for the disaster of the Little Bighorn. Sklenar plausibly argues that, while Custer applied strategy according to thencurrent military doctrine, when faced with a drastically underestimated enemy force of warriors anxious to protect tribal noncombatants, his fate was sealed by an unlucky combination of logistical mishaps and the negligence of officers. Specifically, he explores how Major Reno and Captain Benteen, leading Custer’s supporting cavalry wings, were motivated respectively by drunken cowardice and longsimmering bitterness in their failure to act after repeated alerts which insured the loss of Custer and his command. They later provided testimony which damned Custer and obfuscated their roles for decades. Sklenar conducts this reappraisal with an admirable depth of factual research, but this, coupled with an often dry prose style, ensures a leisurely pace to his narrative that may prove tedious to casual enquirers into Western lore.

However, committed lay readers and serious students of the event and the surrounding Victorianexpansionist milieu will probably find this an engaging, convincing, and fully informative account, one which will stand out in the crowded field of Custerrelated books.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8061-3156-X

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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