A compelling, highly readable treat, whether you partake of Ostreidae or not.

Kurlansky (Boogaloo on Second Avenue, 2005, etc.) takes a fresh look at the tasty, once plentiful mollusk in this stimulating, often fascinating saga.

In describing the rise and fall of the oyster industry in New York, Kurlansky delivers an insightful history of the city itself, from the day in 1609 when Henry Hudson first sailed into New York Harbor (where he was promptly offered oysters by the resident Lenni Lenape Indians) through the inexorable pollution of New York's once teeming oyster beds, resulting in their closing by 1930. New Yorkers may be surprised to learn just how plentiful oysters were. One biologist claimed that New York Harbor once contained half the world's oysters, and, by 1880, with the help of scientific “cultivation,” New York's waters were producing 700 million oysters a year. Small wonder that oyster stands and oyster saloons were ubiquitous in 19th-century New York. Kurlansky seasons his scholarship with colorful asides on everything from the birth of Delmonico's restaurant to the boisterous oyster-shucking contests that were once a staple of New York life. (In 1885, a shucker named Billy Lowney opened 100 oysters in three minutes, three seconds.) Many vintage oyster recipes are included, with some calling for more than one hundred oysters per recipe. While oysters are clearly the stars here, Kurlansky also offers some intriguing human portraits, from Charles Dickens, who preferred eating his oysters in dingy oyster cellars, to the corpulent Diamond Jim Brady, who was said to begin each meal with a gallon of orange juice and six dozen Lynnhaven oysters. Kurlansky serves up the heady story with trenchant prose and a knack for curious insight. True, after hearing him describe the oyster's innards, you may not be rushing to the nearest oyster bar: “If the oyster is opened carefully, the diner is eating an animal with a working brain, a stomach, intestines, liver and a still-beating heart.”

A compelling, highly readable treat, whether you partake of Ostreidae or not.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-47638-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2005


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


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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