A refreshingly unusual approach by an author admirably transparent about why she wrote the book and why she chose to avoid...

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THE GUNNING OF AMERICA

BUSINESS AND THE MAKING OF AMERICAN GUN CULTURE

An examination of the controversial realm of American gun culture through the perspective of gun manufacturers, with an emphasis on the Winchester Repeating Arms Company.

Historian Haag (Marriage Confidential: The Post-Romantic Age of Workhorse Wives, Royal Children, Undersexed Spouses, and Rebel Couples, 2011, etc.) deliberately eschews detailed discussions about the Second Amendment, the rights of gun owners, the advocates of gun control, and other cornerstones of our current heated political debate. Instead, in each chapter, the author emphasizes that the United States became awash with handguns and rifles and other permutations of weaponry in large part because manufacturers saw potential markets for their products and then sold to those markets aggressively and effectively. Haag explores numerous manufacturers and their personnel, building her narrative mostly around 19th-century “rifle king” Oliver Winchester and his “less visible, more historically numinous daughter-in-law,” Sarah Winchester. Oliver represents the bottom line–oriented businessman who thought little about the moral implications of selling a product meant to kill, while Sarah represents the second-generation tycoon haunted by those same moral implications. As Haag mixes a straight-ahead business saga with a soap-operatic tale of misfortune in spite of wealth, the opposing strands are not always well-integrated within the overall text. However, those threads are usually interesting, and the research is extensive. In an epilogue, Haag briefly addresses current gun politics, suggesting that imposing corporate accountability on gun manufacturers seems more productive than endlessly debating the rights of gun owners and what gun control partisans have a right to impose on those individual owners. It is important to recognize, she writes, “that gun violence and mass shootings are not really technocratic problems, to be most effectively solved through the correspondingly technocratic remedies of legislative campaigns that often fail, and that, in any event, tackle small facets of the problem.”

A refreshingly unusual approach by an author admirably transparent about why she wrote the book and why she chose to avoid more traditional approaches.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-465-04895-3

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 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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