A dense and often exciting account, written in leisurely and mannered prose.




An exhaustive account of the fires of 1910, which destroyed millions of acres in four northwestern states and transformed American conceptions of forest maintenance and fire control.

Pyne (How the Canyon Became Grand, 1998, etc.) reminds us of just how destructive fire was in everyday life 100 years ago. Most building materials were highly inflammable, for example, and forests and prairies were often cleared by means of (intentionally set) fires. Mass transportation (e.g., the railway) was fueled by fire, and even public entertainments and spectacles generally revolved around bonfires, campfires, or some other form of fireworks. Reformers such as Teddy Roosevelt advocated new notions of conservation in combating forest fires, but progress was derailed by bureaucratic scandals and infighting (particularly between the Geological Survey and the newly formed Forest Service). In the style of academic thriller, Pyne narrates a monthly chronology of events that led up to the “Big Blowup” of August 1910—a rapid series of firestorms across mountainous Montana terrain that claimed more than 80 lives and led to the organized enforcement of fire controls. The author makes good use of many eyewitness accounts, and he emphasizes the Forest Service’s strange situation: They essentially invented wilderness firefighting on the fly, using controversial tactics like backfiring (beginning a controlled burn to consume potential fuels). Unfortunately, they were not equal to the magnitude of the catastrophe before them, and they did little that actually succeeded in extinguishing the fires (which burnt themselves out over a course of several weeks).

A dense and often exciting account, written in leisurely and mannered prose.

Pub Date: May 7, 2001

ISBN: 0-670-89990-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2001

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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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