Like sitting next to a loquacious, genial and informative passenger on a slow trans-Texas train.




A Sooner-born, Longhorn-raised writer offers a rich selection of pieces originally published in Texas Monthly and elsewhere.

A veteran screenwriter and novelist (The Gates of the Alamo, 2000, etc.), Harrigan displays in abundance the trait all great essayists possess: curiosity. Not to mention an enviable travel budget. The peripatetic writer is everywhere: Big Bend National Park, a Mexican desert, Padre Island, the Houston Zoo, Galveston Bay, Rocky Mountain and Mesa Verde national parks, and Monte Carlo, among others. He assembles natural history, some quirky characters and details (on Padre Island he spotted a decapitated turtle), and some personal history (we gradually learn about his boyhood, youth, college years and more), and he displays throughout an appealingly self-deprecating voice. The early sections deal principally with his travels—including the bizarre story of a tiger’s killing a zoo employee—and later sections focus on history. He offers a grim piece about Cortés in Mexico (read this one on an empty stomach) and a good summary about the Stone Age man found in that alpine glacier in 1991. He enlightens us about the Comanche, who survive but have no reservation, and visits the ruins of Jack London’s Wolf House. He also dives into the whirlpool of controversy about the death of Davy Crockett, enlightens us about the filming of Lonesome Dove and notes a family connection to outlaw Frank James. The final pieces are reflective ones about Texas, homesickness and his screenwriting career.

Like sitting next to a loquacious, genial and informative passenger on a slow trans-Texas train.

Pub Date: April 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0292745612

Page Count: 316

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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