Slouching toward Los Angeles on an alternately pleasant and frustrating detour-filled highway.

CITY AT THE EDGE OF FOREVER

LOS ANGELES REIMAGINED

A kaleidoscopic view of Los Angeles that looks beyond stereotypes of “freeways, sprawl, movie stars, and New Age nonsense.”

Lunenfeld, a native New Yorker who is now a professor of design media arts at UCLA, pens a valentine to his adopted city, where he moved to attend graduate school. Erudite and fact-packed but self-indulgent and inefficiently organized, his book rests on the conceit that LA has moved through interlocking phases corresponding to the five elements of alchemy—“from earth to fire to air to water” and the more elusive “aether” or “the quintessence.” That framework gives Lunenfeld ample and welcome room to cover often overlooked topics such as the city’s once-powerful aerospace industry and the ports of LA and Long Beach, whose waters are “the largest and busiest in the United States.” Throughout, the author forges many offbeat connections. He links, among others, Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner (both of whom let people enter a “dreamscape” and interact with its denizens, Mickey at Disneyland and the bunnies at Playboy clubs) and two married couples who blazed trails as they combined work and love: midcentury-modern designers Charles and Ray Eames and the authors Will and Arial Durant. Lunenfeld’s “alchemical” stages overlap and progress in nonlinear ways, which leads to continual jump-cuts back and forth in time, place, and theme, an approach that can be disorienting. The text sometimes devolves into tourist-board prose: No other metropolitan area, writes the author, “can boast of the presence of two presidential libraries,” Nixon’s and Reagan’s. Unlike Joan Didion—that austere, minimalist bard of California—Lunenfeld is a maximalist who overstuffs his argument that LA triumphed through “its ramp-up of the arts, architecture, design, cuisines, music, theater, and literary cultures, not to mention technical and scientific accomplishments, at a speed and with a reach unprecedented in human history.” He makes a strong case for the city’s exceptionalism, but via a route that requires the patience of navigating the LA freeways.

Slouching toward Los Angeles on an alternately pleasant and frustrating detour-filled highway.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-56193-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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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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A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

THE COMFORT BOOK

Bestselling author Haig offers a book’s worth of apothegms to serve as guides to issues ranging from disquietude to self-acceptance.

Like many collections of this sort—terse snippets of advice, from the everyday to the cosmic—some parts will hit home with surprising insight, some will feel like old hat, and others will come across as disposable or incomprehensible. Years ago, Haig experienced an extended period of suicidal depression, so he comes at many of these topics—pain, hope, self-worth, contentment—from a hard-won perspective. This makes some of the material worthy of a second look, even when it feels runic or contrary to experience. The author’s words are instigations, hopeful first steps toward illumination. Most chapters are only a few sentences long, the longest running for three pages. Much is left unsaid and left up to readers to dissect. On being lost, Haig recounts an episode with his father when they got turned around in a forest in France. His father said to him, “If we keep going in a straight line we’ll get out of here.” He was correct, a bit of wisdom Haig turned to during his depression when he focused on moving forward: “It is important to remember the bottom of the valley never has the clearest view. And that sometimes all you need to do in order to rise up again is to keep moving forward.” Many aphorisms sound right, if hardly groundbreaking—e.g., a quick route to happiness is making someone else happy; “No is a good word. It keeps you sane. In an age of overload, no is really yes. It is yes to having space you need to live”; “External events are neutral. They only gain positive or negative value the moment they enter our mind.” Haig’s fans may enjoy this one, but others should take a pass.

A handful of pearls amid a pile of empty oyster shells.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-14-313666-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Penguin Life

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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