An often harrowing, though mostly conventional, account of the physical and psychological toll of modern warfare on the...

WAR

The latest flexing of journalistic muscle from Vanity Fair contributor Junger (A Death in Belmont, 2006, etc.).

The author dives into the most perilous form of immersion journalism, attempting to create an unflinching account of frontline combat. The prototype of this approach is Michael Herr’s peerless Dispatches (1977), a thoroughly unsentimental, grunt-level view of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest years. Yet if Junger’s dispatches from the fighting in Afghanistan solidify anything, it’s that war American-style hasn’t evolved much in the decades since Herr’s book. It seems that neither advanced tactics nor postmillennial weapons technology have negated the all-too-human imperfections of face-to-face ground combat. From June 2007 to June 2008, Junger was embedded—“entirely dependent on the U.S. military for food, shelter, security, and transportation”—with the 173rd Airborne, a seasoned outfit assigned to secure the notoriously untamable Korengal Valley in Afghanistan—murderous terrain that the Soviets had found impassable 30 years before. The author singled out Sgt. Brendan O’Byrne as his primary focal point for the book. O’Byrne’s no-nonsense attitude and bleak upbringing—he was shot by his own father in civilian life—seemed most representative of the squad as a whole. As in The Perfect Storm (1997), Junger blends popular science, psychology and history with a breathlessly paced narrative. What’s absent here is not only a significant political angle but also any big-picture questioning of what exactly these soldiers are fighting and dying for. Junger portrays the infantryman’s life as one dominated solely by the most primitive group loyalty. It’s this love for one’s brothers-in-arms, the author concludes, that allows the soldiers to stir up the courage and selflessness necessary to function at optimum levels under fire.

An often harrowing, though mostly conventional, account of the physical and psychological toll of modern warfare on the average soldier.

Pub Date: May 11, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-55624-8

Page Count: 310

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2010

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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