Rare and vivid evidence of the thriving business of pleasure.




From 1897 to 1917, prostitution operated legally in a district of New Orleans known as Storyville. Beautifully produced by the Historic New Orleans Collection, this abundantly illustrated history of turn-of-the-century prostitution offers an unusual and fascinating glimpse into America’s past.

An authoritative, illuminating introduction by librarian and rare books curator Arceneaux explains the significance of Blue Books, directories to the licentious pleasures of Storyville. Addressed to the white, middle-class men who frequented the district, Blue Books were sold at venues such as saloons and barbershops; because of the Comstock Act (1873), material deemed lewd could not be sent through the mail. Without directly mentioning sex, the Blue Books listed and advertised beer houses, speak-easies, and bordellos, providing rosters of madams and prostitutes by name, address, and race: C (colored), W (white), and O (Octoroon, one-eighth black). Some books identified Jewish prostitutes with J; “first class bordellos” rated a star. Advertisements highlighted the brothels’ luxurious features: expensive furniture, pricey paintings, and refined, elegant women eager to offer diversions such as musical entertainment. One madam, “a head-liner among those who keep first-class octoroons,” boasted about her singing ability as well as her “pretty creole damsels.” Warning that not all establishments were reputable, Blue Books aimed to set “the stranger on a proper grade or path as to where to go and be secure.” Advised a 1908 book, “when you go on a ‘lark,’ you’ll know ‘who is who’ and the best place to spend your time and money.” Temptations were many: in that year, for example, the directory listed 697 women to choose from. Along with brothel listings, readers found advertisements for liquor, cigars, and, not surprisingly, so-called cures for venereal diseases, such as “Anti-Crab Lotion” and “Hellmann’s No. 206 Mixture. A sure cure in a short time.” Now extremely fragile, the books have been digitized for examination at the Historic New Orleans Collection website.

Rare and vivid evidence of the thriving business of pleasure.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-917860-73-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: The Historic New Orleans Collection

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2017

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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