A how-to guide disguised in a disposable novelistic dressing.


A novice book collector gets a quick and expensive education in the rare-book world in this epistolary tale.

In his 2011 novel, Correspondence, Hall introduced Larry, a rough-around-the-edges New Yorker who lucked into a cache of letters written by Victorian luminaries. In this sequel, Larry is flush with $400,000 from the sale of those letters and now wants to collect fine books. Perhaps a complete run of Trollope first editions would be a good way to start? One of his email interlocutors gently steers him from this folly—that’s an extremely expensive enterprise, and he’s on a $25,000 budget. So after a brief flirtation with more modest Victoriana, he begins to seek out affordable works from New Yorker writers such as James Thurber, J.D. Salinger, John Updike, and Dorothy Parker. Larry’s indulgent correspondents deliver pocket biographies of the authors he’s chasing down, along with brief clinics on book-collecting arcana, from foxing to association copies to explanations of wild price differences in different editions and the fine points of marrying dust jackets. Between that and Larry’s jeezum-crow exclamations at just about every step (“I have a question for you on dust jackets: What the hell is this all about?”), the novel is often ploddingly pedagogical, and Hall’s feints toward deepening Larry’s character with mentions of an impatient girlfriend and a shady-seeming book dealer feel half-hearted. But while the book is weak as a story, it’s a reasonably engaging and informed introduction to serious book collecting, and Hall's detours on Trollope and Max Beerbohm are informed by his scholarship on those authors. (He’s written books on both.) “I can’t help but admire a person so unashamedly frank and humbly inquisitive,” a scholar says of Larry, which is true enough. Alas the tension here largely involves Larry’s pocketbook.

A how-to guide disguised in a disposable novelistic dressing.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56792-56-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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The author’s elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.



A singular spotlight on the concerted World War II effort to save Lipizzaner stallions.

Letts (The Eighty-Dollar Champion: Snowman, the Horse that Inspired a Nation, 2011, etc.), a lifelong equestrienne, eloquently brings together the many facets of this unlikely, poignant story underscoring the love and respect of man for horses. The horses in question were rare Arabian thoroughbreds introduced to Europe by the Ottoman Turks in the late 17th century and subsequently bred in Poland. The Bolsheviks had slaughtered nearly the whole stock in 1917, deeming them the “playthings of princes,” though the Polish stud stable at Janów Podlaski was finally beginning to thrive again by the time of the Russian-Nazi invasion of Poland in late 1938. Two important equine sagas, handled well by the author, converge here: the German takeover of the Janów stud farm, led by German Olympic organizer Gustav Rau, in order to reassemble the Polish horse-breeding industry for the glory of the Third Reich, which desperately needed horses for mounted troops; and the attempts to save the working Lipizzaner stallions at the aristocratic Spanish Riding School in Vienna, led by Alois Podhajsky, who had won the bronze medal in dressage at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Under Rau, the stud farm was moved to Hostau, Czechoslovakia, by October 1942, and put under the care of Polish civil servant Hubert Rudofsky, who successfully increased the number of bred Lipizzaners by 1944. With Allied bombs falling on German cities, and eventually Vienna, Podhajsky determined that his horses had to be moved to safety, eventually housed in the village of St. Martin, Austria, yet the Nazi-controlled Austrian government was loathe to relinquish control of such a symbol of Austrian determination. Enter the Americans, specifically Maj. Hank Reed of the 2nd Calvary, which had traded in tanks for horses to fight the Nazis across France, and the exciting meeting of Gen. George Patton’s army at Hostau.

The author’s elegant narrative conveys how the love for these amazing creatures transcends national animosities.

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-345-54480-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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In this companion to Portraits of War: Civil War Photographers and Their Work (1998), Sullivan presents an album of the prominent ships and men who fought on both sides, matched to an engrossing account of the war's progress: at sea, on the Mississippi, and along the South's well-defended coastline. In his view, the issue never was in doubt, for though the Confederacy fought back with innovative ironclads, sleek blockade runners, well-armed commerce raiders, and sturdy fortifications, from the earliest stages the North was able to seal off, and then take, one major southern port after another. The photos, many of which were made from fragile glass plates whose survival seems near-miraculous, are drawn from private as well as public collections, and some have never been published before. There aren't any action shots, since mid-19th-century photography required very long exposure times, but the author compensates with contemporary prints, plus crisp battle accounts, lucid strategic overviews, and descriptions of the technological developments that, by war's end, gave this country a world-class navy. He also profiles the careers of Matthew Brady and several less well-known photographers, adding another level of interest to a multi-stranded survey. (source notes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-13)

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-7613-1553-5

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Twenty-First Century/Millbrook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2001

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