Solid journalism on a pressing problem that is likely to get far worse, and soon.

HOLDING BACK THE RIVER

THE STRUGGLE AGAINST NATURE ON AMERICA'S WATERWAYS

A gimlet-eyed look at America’s rapidly deteriorating riparian infrastructure.

In the days of Lewis and Clark, writes freelance journalist Kelley, the sight of the Missouri River in seasonal flood, overspilling its banks and “spreading out to fill its floodplain,” would have seemed entirely natural. Their successors in the Army Corps of Engineers took a dim view of rivers doing their own thing, though, and over time the nation has invested trillions of dollars in efforts to control them, from huge dams to the extensive levee system along the lower Mississippi. These structures are now crumbling, and although the Trump administration talked a big game about investing in infrastructure, it was consistently sidetracked by diversions of the president’s own making—the testimony of James Comey on Russian involvement in the 2016 election, for instance, overshadowing a promise to ease regulations on coal and boost the barge industry. The professional organization of civil engineers rates the nation’s dams at a D, identifying more than 15,500 as being of “high-hazard potential”—i.e., likely to cause deaths if they failed. Of a critically important lock on the Ohio River, its manager sighs, “The lock is kept going with all the bubble gum and duct tape we’ve got left.” Meanwhile, even as the Corps of Engineers negotiates new spillways and scrambles to keep up with existing structures, nature works to thwart their efforts. For example, a projected plan to divert the Mississippi to Louisiana’s Barataria Bay would kill some of the state’s most lucrative oyster beds and a resident dolphin population—all in service of trying to keep New Orleans from going underwater, which seems destined to happen anyway, with a “new shoreline…around the latitude of Baton Rouge and the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain.” Kelley concludes with an exhortation to develop “a basin-based approach” to river management while there’s still a little time left.

Solid journalism on a pressing problem that is likely to get far worse, and soon.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-8704-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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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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Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

ON ANIMALS

The beloved author gathers a wide-ranging selection of pieces about animals.

“Animals have always been my style,” writes Orlean at the beginning of her latest delightful book, a collection of articles that originally appeared in “slightly modified form” in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New Yorker, where she has been a staff writer since 1992. The variety on display is especially pleasing. Some essays are classic New Yorkerprofiles: Who knew that tigers, near extinction in the wild, are common household pets? There are at least 15,000 in the U.S. Her subject, a New Jersey woman, keeps several dozen and has been fighting successful court battles over them for decades. Lions are not near extinction, however; in fact, there are too many. Even in Africa, far more live in captivity or on reserves than in the wild, and readers may be shocked at their fate. Cubs are cute, so animal parks profit by allowing visitors to play with them. With reserves at capacity, cubs who mature may end up shot in trophy hunts or in stalls on breeding farms to produce more cubs. In “The Rabbit Outbreak,” Orlean writes about how rabbit meat was an American staple until replaced by beef and chicken after World War II, whereupon rabbit pet ownership surged. They are now “the third-most-popular pet in the country, ranking just behind dogs and cats.” Readers may be aware of the kerfuffle following the hit movie Free Willythat led to a massive campaign to return the film’s killer whale to the wild, and Orlean delivers a fascinating, if unedifying account. The author handles dogs like a virtuoso, with 10 hilarious pages on the wacky, expensive, but sometimes profitable life of a champion show dog. Among America’s 65 million pet dogs (according to a 2003 report), 10 million go astray every year, and about half are recovered. Orlean engagingly recounts a lost-dog search of epic proportions.

Another winner featuring the author’s trademark blend of meticulous research and scintillating writing.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982181-53-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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