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PALE HORSE RIDER

WILLIAM COOPER, THE RISE OF CONSPIRACY, AND THE FALL OF TRUST IN AMERICA

Despite Jacobson’s efforts to persuade us that Cooper’s ideas influence American politics and culture in meaningful ways,...

A biography of Milton William Cooper (1943-2001), who inspired conspiracy cells through print publications and his radio broadcasts.

As New York magazine contributing editor Jacobson (The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans, 2010, etc.) writes, Cooper’s most widely read book, Behold a Pale Horse (1991), had existed on the edge of his consciousness for many years, as had Cooper’s radio show The Hour of the Time. Before Cooper died in a shootout with law enforcement agents at his Arizona home in 2001, Jacobson never thought to interview the conspiracist, who had developed a cult following. Eventually, though, for reasons Jacobson cannot pinpoint, he felt the call to research Cooper’s life and legacy. The author found plenty of living sources, including former wives, children, acolytes, supporters, and detractors. In addition, the author listened to hours of Cooper’s broadcasts and read millions of published words. Ultimately, given Cooper’s viewpoints and work, writing this biography must have been a difficult task; he presented as fact much that can never be proven, based to some extent on information he claims to have absorbed while in the military during the Vietnam War. Depending on the reader’s point of view on human nature, Cooper will come off as either sincere about the supposedly factual conspiracies he presented or be labeled a paranoid autodidact. What many readers will conclude: On topics from UFOs to “solving” the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Cooper reached conclusions in a fevered mind and then bent information to fit the conclusions. A temperamental man who drank heavily, assaulted at least some of his wives, lost contact with most of his children, Cooper emerges from these pages as a thoroughly unpleasant, unhappy man.

Despite Jacobson’s efforts to persuade us that Cooper’s ideas influence American politics and culture in meaningful ways, the biography seems like a lot of effort for little payoff.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-16995-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2018

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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