A deep-sea diver explores shipwrecks and his own character in this gripping scuba memoir.

Hunt (Angles of Attack: An A-6 Intruder Pilot’s War, 2002) revisits 30 years of shipwreck dives, a pastime whose lugubrious allure is only heightened by his vivid descriptions of the dangers. Chief among these are the hulks themselves, full of ensnaring electrical cables and silt, all of which becomes an impenetrable, disorienting cloud at the kick of a fin; one wrong turn in these pitch-black labyrinths, and a diver can be trapped in a watery tomb. Then there’s the sheer physiological challenge of penetrating an alien environment where breathing itself is a high-tech feat rife with fatal glitches. Carbon dioxide can build up to asphyxiating levels; nitrogen first intoxicates and then bubbles out of the blood to cause the bends; even oxygen becomes toxic and induces convulsions. Hunt’s well-paced narrative is full of underwater panics, nerve-wracking escapes and rescues that sometimes end in failure and death. He structures it around his dives to the wreck of the Italian cruise ship Andrea Doria, which sank in 240 feet of water off Nantucket in 1956—he includes a riveting account of the disaster and the blunders that caused it—and remains a magnet to divers because of its difficulty and wealth of fine china and other loot. Along the way he presents a lucid, engrossing study of the art of diving, introducing readers to the arcane gear, the constant attention to breathing, buoyancy and “situational awareness” the sport demands and the complex decompression routines that make surfacing take twice as long as the dive. Hunt’s three decades of Andrea Doria excursions also frame an affecting story of maturation and limits, as he ages from a strapping, reckless youth to a more cautious man in physical decline—a transformation that prepares him for the onset of Parkinson’s disease with the knowledge that “dying slowly is hard work.” Hunt’s taut scenes and meticulous prose will have readers holding their breath, but his saga probes hidden depths as well.


Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2011

ISBN: 978-1453734209

Page Count: 276

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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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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