Learned but accessible, a pleasure for all readers bitten by the bug of impractical acquisition.



Bezoars, crocodile teeth, sextants, first editions: if it can be collected, it figures in the pages of this entertaining debut, a history of passion-driven accumulation.

Though only 32, European journalist and translator Blom writes with an old hand’s appreciation for the deep-seated impulse to gather things and make them one’s own. Much of his narrative consists of brief profiles of collectors possessed by that need, some quite uncontrollably. Among them are Spain’s King Philip II, who “sent out agents to bring him every relic they could find,” amassing 7,000 items connected with Christian saints including 4 whole bodies and 144 heads, as well as putative pieces of the True Cross and the Crown of Thorns; American newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst, who filled his California castle and apartments throughout the land with millions of dollars’ worth of art, inspiring Orson Welles’s movie Citizen Kane and pushing himself deep into debt in the bargain; English gardener John Tradescant, whose renowned collection of “Shining Stones or of Any Strange Shapes,” animal skins, books, and drawings forms the basis of Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum (why it’s not called the Tradescantian Museum is a tale in itself); and Hollywood-based artist Alex Shear, who hoards such things as African-American Barbie dolls and Jell-O boxes in an effort to chronicle the essential childishness of American culture. Blom also explores with a light hand what their obsessions mean; he observes, for instance, that the act of collecting and classifying things allows the amasser to impose order on a patently disorderly universe and remarks on the odd correlation between uselessness and value, such that goods with practical purposes are less prized than “a stamp that is no longer valid, an empty matchbox that missed the rubbish bin only because its last user had a poor aim.”

Learned but accessible, a pleasure for all readers bitten by the bug of impractical acquisition.

Pub Date: March 17, 2003

ISBN: 1-58567-377-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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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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Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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