Not a conventional championship-season kind of treatment but a thoughtful, comprehensive, and even deeply personal account...

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DODGERLAND

DECADENT LOS ANGELES AND THE 1977-78 DODGERS

The late-1970s Los Angeles Dodgers are a not-so-distant window through which we can view American culture, then and now.

Fallon, who has published previously about the cultural scene in the City of Angels during the same epoch (Creating the Future: Art and Los Angeles in the 1970s, 2014), weaves several stories into his attractive tapestry: the story of his grandfather’s economic rise and fall, Mayor Tom Bradley’s ultimately successful bid to bring the 1984 Olympic Games to LA, the various struggles of writer Tom Wolfe (to understand the quickly changing culture, to write The Right Stuff) and, principally, the Dodgers’ 1977-1978 seasons, both of which resulted in World Series losses to the reviled Yankees. Within the Dodgers’ larger story, Fallon tells many smaller ones—e.g., the managing styles and troubles of new manager Tommy Lasorda, the contentious pitcher Don Sutton, the all-American (and, later, tainted) image of hitting star Steve Garvey (who ended up in a famous locker-room brawl with Sutton), the vicissitudes of outfielder Rick Monday. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson both shines and fades. The author continually takes us away from the ballpark, as well, to remind us of the popular movies (Star Wars and Jaws among them), music (Frank Zappa, the Bee Gees), and TV shows (Three’s Company). In this ambitious and thoroughly researched account, we learn about the economic woes of the era—the author examines Proposition 13—the political figures, including President Jimmy Carter, and so much more (Hugh Hefner). Although Fallon’s account races at times, especially during some Dodgers’ play-by-play sections, he sometimes allows his diction to slide into cliché—in one brief section, we get sea changes and watershed moments and writing on the wall.

Not a conventional championship-season kind of treatment but a thoughtful, comprehensive, and even deeply personal account of a boisterous era whose echoes remain loud, even painful.

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8032-4940-0

Page Count: 468

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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