A fastidious history of loss at sea, for casual reader and maritime maven alike.




Just 30 years ago, all hands were lost when, in a howling storm, a huge, seemingly unsinkable ship plunged to the bottom of Lake Superior.

The vessel was the 729-foot Edmund Fitzgerald, once the biggest ship on the biggest body of fresh water. The blue-collar working ore-carrier simply was gone and no one knew why. Starting with the careful loading of the Fitz, Schumacher (Francis Ford Coppola, 1999, etc.) reconstructs the event honored in ceremony, story and a song by Canadian troubadour Gordon Lightfoot. Character sketches of the captain and several crew members are provided, along with a history of the Lake and its weather. Gitchie Gummie (Lake Superior) is Great, not always benign. That day in November, the ship worked in heavy seas, green water freely boarding its spar deck. Its experienced master lost touch with a neighboring vessel. Radar on the Fitz was lost, too, in the wall of waves. The nearby lighthouse went dark in the tempest (which, afterwards, was known as “the Ed Fitz storm”). The end came quickly as gravity defeated buoyancy. The last half of Schumacher’s tale describes the efforts to uncover what happened to the great ship. The wreckage was visited and there were official inquiries. Did the Coast Guard act effectively? The futility of lifeboats was clear, but did the Fitz go down because its hatches were not properly secured? Perhaps it was an improperly maintained keel. Now what is left of the Edmund Fitzgerald remains as a final burial chamber for the 29 unforgotten sailors. (A crewmen’s necrology is appended, together with Lightfoot’s lyrics and a glossary that offers definitions of such seafaring words as “fore,” “aft” and “hull,” among more difficult terms).

A fastidious history of loss at sea, for casual reader and maritime maven alike.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-647-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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...


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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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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