The prose sometimes plods like a Clydesdale, but overall, the narrative is quite good, making a worthy addition to the...

THE AGE OF THE HORSE

AN EQUINE JOURNEY THROUGH HUMAN HISTORY

An encyclopedic account of horses and those who love them, put them to work, and eat them.

“Any beginning in nature is arbitrary,” declares Berlin-based writer and editor Forrest by way of opening. She sets hers at 56 million years ago, when the first identifiable horselike creature hit the ground, one that might just as easily have been an early tapir or giraffe or even moose. “Dawn horses” had digits that morphed into hooves at about the time hominins entered the paleontological record, when horses became truly distinct from zebras and donkeys. From then on, the human-horse connection has been strong. Forrest is fascinated by these early appearances and especially by the discovery of atavistic horse strains that ran around in the remoter steppes of Russia and Central Asia. As she notes, one hybrid population, bred as warhorses, was devastated by, yes, war when the Russian civil war broke out in 1918. The author’s sprawling narrative takes in all manner of things, from Lord Byron’s championing of a certain “Tartar steed” to the Linnean taxonomy of horses, from wild horse legislation to Nazi breeding experiments. Sometimes the narrative can seem a little, well, arbitrary as Forrest works these diffuse matters to greater or lesser length. Some parts are a little underdone, while others flow nicely—her account of the development of Lipizzaner-like dancing horses is particularly strong—and still others go on a little too long, though not without some interest, such as her account of the horsemeat controversy that swept across the news a few years back, exposing Americans to the idea that some people actually ate horses, “the odd one out in the butcher’s canon of beef, pork, lamb, and poultry; the cheap, corrupt meat.” In the hands of a nimbler interpreter like Susan Orlean or Diane Ackerman, this material would have sprung to richer life.

The prose sometimes plods like a Clydesdale, but overall, the narrative is quite good, making a worthy addition to the equestrian library.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2651-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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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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