Less satisfying than the author’s longer works or the more recent biography by H.W. Brands.

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ANDREW JACKSON

A BIOGRAPHY

A slim account of Old Hickory’s military career by a leading historian of the period.

Remini (History/Univ. of Illinois at Chicago; The Life of Andrew Jackson, 2003, etc.) leans over backward to see the world through his subject’s eyes, but he cannot conceal that Jackson (1767–1845) was perhaps America’s most disagreeable great figure: touchy, belligerent, prejudiced, provincial. The hatreds of his youth (foreigners, Indians, banks, the Eastern establishment) stayed with him until his death. Yet he was unquestionably a charismatic leader. As a general, Jackson was more notable for energy and aggressiveness than tactical skills; fortunately his enemies played to these strengths. Moving to frontier Tennessee in his 20s, he prospered, becoming the state’s first congressman, but he disliked politics and resigned a year after being elected to the Senate. More to his liking was election as a Tennessee militia commander in 1802. He proved an implacable Indian fighter, and although Jackson’s victories over the indigenous peoples make depressing reading for us, they delighted his contemporaries. By the outbreak of the War of 1812, he was a national figure. When British forces obligingly committed suicide by charging his strongly fortified lines at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, he became America’s most popular hero since Washington. Given an independent command, he promptly invaded Florida, pursuing Indians and abusing Spanish officials. While this produced enemies in Washington, most Americans cheered, and Jackson’s presence encouraged Spain to give up the territory in 1819. He retired in 1821, but supporters were already planning another career. Remini’s contribution to the Great Generals series is hasty, enthusiastic and marred by such lowbrow devices as invented dialogue.

Less satisfying than the author’s longer works or the more recent biography by H.W. Brands.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-230-60015-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2008

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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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