First-class history, and a fascinating exposition of forensic science.

BEETHOVEN’S HAIR

AN EXTRAORDINARY HISTORICAL ODYSSEY AND A MUSICAL MYSTERY SOLVED

An engrossing tale of an odd subject—a chance snipping of Beethoven’s hair and its perilous journey into the 21st century.

In 1827, on his deathbed, Ludwig van Beethoven was visited by his friend, the composer Johann Nepomuk Hummel. In tow was Hummel’s talented 15-year-old pupil, Ferdinand Hiller, who was, not surprisingly, thrilled to be presented to the musical genius. On a subsequent visit some days later the two found the great man dead. The awestruck Hiller asked and received permission from Hummel to clip a lock of the deceased’s hair, a common practice in those days. Hiller, the son of a well-off Jewish merchant who had converted to Christianity, became a competent, but now mostly forgotten, composer. He had the lock framed and treasured it the rest of his life, presenting it to his son Paul shortly before his death in 1885. From that point on, the history of the lock remained murky until a few years ago, when it ended up in the joint possession of two Arizonans with the unlikely names of Ira Brilliant and Alfredo (“Che”) Guevara. In this quirky but enjoyable work, Martin (Out of Silence, not reviewed) sifts through the evidence he has unearthed and provides a highly entertaining and believable account of what happened to the lock during those missing years—amounting to a thumbnail biography of Beethoven that is eventually overshadowed by an account of the Third Reich’s persecution of the Jews. While some might object to this as gimmickry, Martin pulls it off, owing to his solid research and respect for the reader. While obviously enthusiastic, he never goes over the top. He suggests answers to numerous riddles, but he does not insist on their solutions, letting the reader decide. When, toward the end of the book, the author writes of DNA tests on the hair that reveal new answers to the causes of Beethoven’s deafness and death, even the skeptic will share his enthusiasm for this peculiar subject.

First-class history, and a fascinating exposition of forensic science.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2000

ISBN: 0-7679-0350-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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