Roach approaches her subject from several angles, providing much that’s entertaining. Unfortunately, though, her...

THE ROOTS OF DESIRE

THE MYTH, MEANING, AND POWER OF RED HAIR

A redhead—and definitely proud to be one—combines a long personal essay on her own experience and feelings about her red hair with research into the mythology and science of the phenomenon.

Roach, co-author of Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers (2001) and a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, examines the question of why we think of redheads the way we do—as oversexed wild women with the power to lead men astray. In “Sinners,” she researches the meaning of red hair (in both women and men) in the Judeo-Christian tradition, finding, for example, that Adam’s first wife, the promiscuous she-demon Lilith, is usually depicted as a redhead, as is Judas, and that in morality plays of the Middle Ages, Jews frequently appeared as diabolical characters in red wigs. Among the more famous historical redheads, she reports, are the Celtic warrior (and the author’s personal heroine) Boudicca, Henry VIII, and his daughters Mary I and Elizabeth I. While the lore and history are often fascinating, when Roach, in Part Two, turns to what science has learned about red hair, her focus on herself does little to illuminate the account. Eager to find out more about her own genetic inheritance, she travels to England and Scotland to interview various geneticists about red hair. She describes their work briefly—the gene for red hair is now known to be on chromosome 16—but keeps herself and her hair very much in the foreground. In the last section, called “Sex,” the net she casts is wide, hauling in both Mary Magdalene and Miss Kitty of TV’s Gunsmoke. Depicting a woman as a redhead, it seems, is now a convenient shorthand way of saying that she’s someone to be reckoned with.

Roach approaches her subject from several angles, providing much that’s entertaining. Unfortunately, though, her near-obsession with her own identity as a redhead becomes annoying.

Pub Date: July 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-344-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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