Funny and easygoing, Evans reveals the little-known richness of Argentina.

ON A HOOF AND A PRAYER

EXPLORING ARGENTINA AT A GALLOP

Intrepid English travel writer Evans (Kiwis Might Fly, 2007, etc.) experiences Argentina’s stunningly varied expanses while indulging her girlhood desire to ride horses.

From the high desert of the northwest to the northeast falls of Iguazú to hyperenergetic Buenos Aires to Patagonia and the “end of the world,” Evans roughed it during two months of solitary travel in this vast country. As a pleasant leitmotif, she cleverly incorporates her youthful desire to learn to ride in a land where horses have played a vital role since the Spanish founder of Buenos Aires, Pedro de Mendoza, abandoned a handful of his steeds to run wild and breed on the pampas in the mid-16th century. Evans journeyed from mid-October to mid-December, during the spring in Argentina. She started with a week’s stay at a breathtaking 6,000-acre cattle estancia in Córdoba owned by an Anglo-Argentine family that arrived in the 1820s as part of a British immigration wave. She rode about the hills, drove through the Puna (the desert shared with Chile and Bolivia) and visited the Salinas Grandes. In breezy, lighthearted prose, she imparts a smattering of Argentine history. Che Guevara grew up near Córdoba, for example, and the economic collapse of 2001 left 15 million Argentines in poverty. Evans traces the conquistadors’ inroads and their decimation of the various native tribes, and relates briefly the movement by criollos (South American-born Spaniards) for independence from Spain in 1816. Darwin arrived in Argentina in 1833, and Evans frequently quotes from his observations. Evita Perón and the return of her corpse warrant a digression, as does the “dirty war” of the 1970s and ’80s that resulted in 30,000 “disappeared.” Along her amiable way, Evans encounters tango and gauchos; she even learns to castrate a calf.

Funny and easygoing, Evans reveals the little-known richness of Argentina.

Pub Date: May 6, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-34110-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delta

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

A LITTLE HISTORY OF POETRY

A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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SLEEPERS

An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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