Wilde will not convince readers that the Amazon existed—at best, she will leave them wondering why they plowed through her...




An unsatisfying Cook’s tour of Amazon legends.

Filmmaker and broadcaster Wilde suggests that the Amazon myth is not so mythical after all. The women of the Amazon, legend has it, were powerful, fierce fighters who lived without men—once a year they sought out male company in order to reproduce, but for the other 364 days they were fine on their own. They do not, it turns out, come from the river Amazon in South America; rather, the Amazon women first appear in ancient Greek writings. Wilde begins her survey with etymology, examining the two theories about the origin of the word “Amazon”: it is either Greek (“without breasts”) or Armenian (“moon-women”). Wilde then turns to the ancient Greek sources. Herodotus, the “father of history,” claims that Greeks took Amazon women captive and put them aboard ships to bring them home as slaves. In the middle of the Black Sea, however, the women rose up and overcame their captors, and they eventually landed on the shores of the Sea of Azov and settled down with the Scythians who already lived there. The 17th-century Jesuit Cristobal de Acuña claimed that he encountered Amazon women in South America. It was said that men visited them at certain times of the year and had sex with them in hammocks; the Amazons raised the daughters that resulted from these couplings, but they were rumored to kill their sons. Wilde examines 20th-century commentators, too: Eva Meyerowitz, a scholar of the matriarchal society of the Akan people, claimed to have met real Amazon women in her African travels. Though some feminists and lesbians have reclaimed the legacy of the women, most feminists are put off by their “masculine” penchant for violence. The most satisfying section of the book is the last few pages, where Wilde turns her attention to the legacy of the Amazons.

Wilde will not convince readers that the Amazon existed—at best, she will leave them wondering why they plowed through her anticlimactic, derivative survey.

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-312-26213-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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