O’Brian’s fans and armchair travelers will naturally gravitate to this eclectic work.

READ REVIEW

A BOOK OF VOYAGES

A curiously engrossing collection of travel writings from the 17th and 18th centuries, collected by the deceased author of the Aubrey/Maturin series.

The writings, grouped in a somewhat forced fashion by travels pleasant, unpleasant or exotic, preserve their antiquated spelling and stylistic flourishes, providing readers both challenge and hilarity. The purpose of the collection is to inform and edify, as well as entertain and titillate, yet some extracts are so fantastic—such as the description of the queen’s jewel-laden outfit in “The Nabob’s Lady” (1745) or the decision by the starving crew in “The Distresses of the Unfortunate Crew of the Ship Anne and Mary in the Year 1759” to cast lots to eat one passenger in order to support the rest—that they stretch credulity. Lady Craven’s percolating letters to her second husband, the Margrave of Anspach, recording her extensive travels from Vienna to the relatively unknown Crimea, form a marvelous account of provincial and courtly mores, as well as a reflection of her egotism. Dr. Gemelli-Careri’s descriptions of carnival in Venice (“Travels Through Europe,” 1686) are ironical and pedantic. Philip Thicknesse gives some precious “General Hints to Strangers Who Travel Through France”—e.g., “Never let a Frenchman with whom you live, or with whom you travel, be master. An Englishman cannot possibly live twenty-four hours with a Frenchman who commands.” For sheer strange reading, there are ambassador Sir Thomas Roe’s depictions of Eastern courts in “The Mogul’s Birthday” and John Bell’s elaborate “Hunting with the Emperor K’Ang Hsi,” recording a long day of killing everything from hares to tigers. Plenty of shipwrecks, from the Arctic to Virginia, round out the adventures.

O’Brian’s fans and armchair travelers will naturally gravitate to this eclectic work.

Pub Date: May 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-393-08958-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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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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Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

THE WAY I HEARD IT

Former Dirty Jobs star Rowe serves up a few dozen brief human-interest stories.

Building on his popular podcast, the author “tells some true stories you probably don’t know, about some famous people you probably do.” Some of those stories, he allows, have been subject to correction, just as on his TV show he was “corrected on windmills and oil derricks, coal mines and construction sites, frack tanks, pig farms, slime lines, and lumber mills.” Still, it’s clear that he takes pains to get things right even if he’s not above a few too-obvious groaners, writing about erections (of skyscrapers, that is, and, less elegantly, of pigs) here and Joan Rivers (“the Bonnie Parker of comedy”) there, working the likes of Bob Dylan, William Randolph Hearst, and John Wayne into the discourse. The most charming pieces play on Rowe’s own foibles. In one, he writes of having taken a soft job as a “caretaker”—in quotes—of a country estate with few clear lines of responsibility save, as he reveals, humoring the resident ghost. As the author notes on his website, being a TV host gave him great skills in “talking for long periods without saying anything of substance,” and some of his stories are more filler than compelling narrative. In others, though, he digs deeper, as when he writes of Jason Everman, a rock guitarist who walked away from two spectacularly successful bands (Nirvana and Soundgarden) in order to serve as a special forces operative: “If you thought that Pete Best blew his chance with the Beatles, consider this: the first band Jason bungled sold 30 million records in a single year.” Speaking of rock stars, Rowe does a good job with the oft-repeated matter of Charlie Manson’s brief career as a songwriter: “No one can say if having his song stolen by the Beach Boys pushed Charlie over the edge,” writes the author, but it can’t have helped.

Never especially challenging or provocative but pleasant enough light reading.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-982130-85-5

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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