Travel writing about places no one can travel.



Traveling through the islands of myth and fantasy with a guide who does his best to unravel the mysteries surrounding them.

What Tallack (Sixty Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home, 2016, etc.) calls “the line between myth and map” is a fine one, occasionally blurry and indistinct. The author, who lives in Glasgow but is originally from the remote island of Shetland, does his best to track these islands to their origins in tall tales sold by sailors, allegories of paradise, and even outright deception. Part of the trickiness is that many of these islands have appeared on maps, as if they were real, from a time when “people understood that the world was big and that their part of it was small, but they knew little of what lay beyond.” Charting that world of what lay beyond was an inexact science, and some of those islands might now be known under a different name, while some were simply a product of myth or imagination. The best-known of these remains Atlantis, the sunken continent, which, writes Tallack, “is a fictional island, invented by Plato for allegorical purposes.” He continues, “you can discover almost anything you want to discover about Atlantis, and pretty much every word of it is nonsense.” Many of these islands seem to exist in the spiritual realm, as places inhabited by the dead or as a heavenly paradise on Earth, a different realm from the world the rest of us experience. Of one, he writes, once one has seen it, his words become unintelligible to others. Hence the lack of documentation. Yet the tales long persisted, because “the idea of a drowned island is somehow both irresistible and unbelievable.” Scott’s illustrations simply conjure the imaginative visions, while the prose tends toward the matter-of-fact (or matter-of-myth) and encyclopedic.

Travel writing about places no one can travel.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-250-14844-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Picador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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