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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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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