A welcome installment in Bass’s ongoing place-centered autobiography.



A fan’s notes on wilderness, log-cabin life, grizzly bears and other aspects of the American outback.

Bass (Why I Came West, 2008, etc.) returns to the form of his early book Winter (1991), recording a year in the Yaak Valley of northwestern Montana, an uncommonly lush and marshy tract of forest that, at 1,800 feet, is the state’s lowest elevation. This does not keep the Yaak from posing challenges aplenty in winter, in the thick of which the book opens. Bass strikes a Thoreauvian note at the outset, contrasting his contemplative life in the woods with other possibilities: “I’m not talking about out-and-out government-loathing misanthropy, not the survivalist’s manifesto kind of hunkering down, but something more peaceable and searching.” Considering that the Unabomber’s cabin and Ruby Ridge are both located not so far away, the apology isn’t misplaced, but it soon becomes apparent that there’s no misanthropy here, even if the events related aren’t entirely peaceable. (Nature is, after all, red in tooth and claw.) Bass takes a philosophical view of wilderness and the need to protect it, ascribing to the world a desire for order that admits human participation. In all this he is more conversational and less clenched of jaw than in previous essays. As the year progresses, the author takes the reader from days of endless gray sky, sideways-falling snow—indeed, at one point he recounts ten days without a break in snowfall—and winter blues (“like the effects of too many concussions”), to a superheated summer in which wildfire threatens to destroy his family’s home. In the end, the importance of family is what emerges most strongly, with Bass pondering whether his daughters’ lives will be made the better for their having grown up so far away from shopping malls, television and the other amenities of postmodern life.

A welcome installment in Bass’s ongoing place-centered autobiography.

Pub Date: July 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-547-05516-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2009

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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