Any student of the Renaissance should read this excellent work showing Spain’s enormous impact on the arts and, with her...

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SPAIN

THE CENTER OF THE WORLD, 1519-1682

A bright, wide-ranging chronicle of the golden age of the Spanish empire.

Though Goodwin (Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies/Univ. Coll. London; Crossing the Continent 1527-1540: The Story of the First African-American Explorer of the American South, 2008) denies that he has written a magisterial work filled with scholarly detail but rather a book for the “idle reader,” it is a well-researched, intelligent, and easily understood history of the first global empire on Earth. The author divides the work into two sections: “Gold” deals with the historical, economic, and political history, and “Glitter” explores literary and artistic works. At the beginning of the empire, King Charles V realized that the great wealth of silver and gold arriving from America would require a bureaucracy to ensure the availability of the banks, postal service, food, and roads essential for the movement of troops and supplies. He had to be well-organized and wealthy to wage wars and contain an empire that included the Netherlands, Naples, the Holy Roman Empire, and, eventually, Portugal. Charles was also an avid collector of Renaissance art and appointed the Venetian artist Titian as court painter. His son, Philip II, inherited a well-oiled machine that enabled him to expand the vast art collection his father had begun. He laid the path for Spain’s great artists Velázquez, Murillo, and El Greco, who were joined by great writers and thinkers like Cervantes, Góngora, and Quevedo. Goodwin not only shows the greatness of Spain’s empire, but also explains the psyche of Spaniards during the time. They preferred poverty over labor and honor over trade, and they were obsessed with purity of blood. The latter aspect was one of the prime drivers of the Inquisition, formed to rid Spain of lapsed Christians who had converted from Judaism during the diaspora of 1492.

Any student of the Renaissance should read this excellent work showing Spain’s enormous impact on the arts and, with her vast American empire, the world.

Pub Date: July 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62040-360-0

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

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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