A memorable book that will excite discussion in anthropological and geopolitical circles.




Somber travels across the Indonesian archipelago—often a step ahead of the machete.

Readers who take their view of Indonesia from The Year of Living Dangerously aren’t far from the mark, if Parry’s account is to be trusted—and, as a correspondent for the Times of London, he has sterling credentials. Parry’s report begins in Borneo, long synonymous in the Western mind with all things savage. There seems a reason for all that: The Dayak of Borneo, the ethnic and political majority, harbor a particular hatred for a Muslim people among them called the Madurese, who are tough enough for Parry to liken them to Sicilians. As he travels through the island, Parry meets incident after incident of savagery, as in West Kalimantan, where the Dayaks had not only slaughtered the Madurese, but had also “ritually decapitated them, carried off their heads as trophies and eaten their hearts and livers.” Cannibalism in this day and age? You bet, Parry replies in a passage sure to provoke bad feelings among culturally relative types, pausing to acknowledge that the Dayaks’ ethnic-cleansing arguments are just modern enough to employ “the kind of consensus that has built up at various times about Romany Gypsies, or about Jews.” At another turning point, Parry is on hand for the “sack of Jakarta,” in which hundreds died in antigovernment demonstrations that led, in time, to the fall of Suharto—and the rise of a particularly militant kind of nationalist Islamism. The apex of the book involves Parry’s nadir, when, after one too many brushes with death on East Timor, where bike-gangish Indonesian paramilitary forces energetically butchered separatists and anyone else they came across, he fled, “because I was afraid of being killed or, more precisely, of dying in fear.” In such horrifying places, surely that’s about the only way there is to die.

A memorable book that will excite discussion in anthropological and geopolitical circles.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2006

ISBN: 0-8021-1808-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2005

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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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