A must for every home or institutional collection. (11 illustrations)




Historical survey by a rare-book librarian of the defining epochs and events leading to both the destruction and proliferation of libraries.

Rebutting the stereotype of a silent sanctum in which mousy librarians maintain perfect order, the author reminds us how chaotic and impermanent these repositories of accumulated knowledge are. He contends that a library, “a world, complete and uncompletable,” draws its reason for existence from the culture in which it arises, a situation as liable to shifting social currents as the edifice housing it is subject to weather and other disasters, both natural and man-made. Battles follows the notorious “biblioclasms” of past ages, from the burning of the library at Alexandria to the bonfires of the Nazis, who destroyed more than 100 million books. He asserts that “most books are bad, very bad in fact,” and bemoans their inability to surmount the babble of their times. He does not, however, suggest that their fates are deserved; rather, that an ironic result of gathering so many volumes in a single place is that it makes them ready targets for revisionist fervor. Many small collections in obscure and scattered locations, on the other hand, ensure that more books will survive the onslaught of marauding princes, vengeful dictators, and fanatical clerics. Among the other ironies the author points out: many of the scrolls in Herculaneum survived the volcano of a.d. 79 because they burned, thereby making the charred remains amenable to spectral photography, which rendered their ancient text visible, while intact scrolls of the same age have long since crumbled into dust. Battles points out that books have always been an ephemeral experience: older manuscripts and proscribed texts were often recycled or reused, the imperfect palimpsests still visible to later readers. Yet he seems to lament the onset of the digital age, with its 800-million-page archive, by attesting that libraries now exist in a “state of flux which is indistinguishable from a state of crisis.”

A must for every home or institutional collection. (11 illustrations)

Pub Date: June 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-393-02029-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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