A globe-trotting journalist's harrowing rundown on the horrific toll taken by land mines long after the wars during which they were laid have ended. Drawing largely on his own experiences in Angola, Winslow provides both big-picture perspectives and anecdotal evidence on this ghastly threat afflicting much of the Third World. All told, roughly 110 million mines (anti-tank and anti-personnel) remain buried in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Egypt, Israel, Korea, Mozambique, Somalia, Vietnam, and scores of other countries. Every year, these devices kill or maim 26,000 people, virtually all of them civilians. Worse yet, the lethal legacy continues to grow; guerilla forces are laying one million new mines each year, according to UN estimates. Thanks to their capacity to channel and contain enemy troops in combat zones at a comparatively modest cost, land mines have become weapons of choice for regular and insurgent armies. But as the author explains in his reportage on clearance crews dispatched by humanitarian organizations, it's a lot easier and cheaper to put sensitive packages of explosives below the surface of the ground than it is to remove or disarm them. Nor, as he documents in bleak detail, are the doctors and nurses posted to battlegrounds by private relief agencies able to do much more than perform basic amputations for those who survive a land-mine blast. Covered as well is the indifference of corrupt governments to the plight of innocents crippled or dismembered by accidental detonations, the dearth of crutches (let alone prosthetics) in areas where the need is desperate, the chilling effect of live minefields on once-bustling population centers, and the emergent Canadian-led campaign to ban the use of land mines. An eloquent case against ordnance that was characterized by no less an authority than William Tecumseh Sherman as ``not war, but murder.'' (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 1997

ISBN: 0-8070-5004-0

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1997

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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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