A disjointed tale of society and its riches, dull and thrilling in about equal portions.




Another tell-all about money, power and the people who wield both, from Vanity Fair contributor Stadiem (co-author: Daughter of the King: Growing Up in Gangland, 2014, etc.).

In his latest offering, the author once again forgoes traditional biography in favor of a series of linked portraits of an entire wealthy group, this time people who entered social consciousness during the late 1950s and ’60s, when air travel became more attainable for the masses. Their antics span continents, careers and almost all imaginable levels of education, and since Stadiem has chosen the airline industry as an organizing principle, he includes the much-less-visible men who designed and built those jets. Unsurprisingly, they’re given to self-indulgent behavior and scandalous misdeeds just like other rich people. While the author does his best to weave together the tenuous threads connecting each person, family or event, it’s a labored process that results in clunky prose littered with out-of-place name-dropping and heavy-handed reminders. Many of the stories have strong appeal—e.g., brothers Ivan and Oleg Cassini could have filled an entire book by themselves—but Stadiem’s broad focus means that even the longer sections whet the appetite rather than satiate it. Social and business dynasties rise and fall, partnerships still recognizable today are forged and sometimes destroyed, and serious rivalries crop up. Each is treated similarly, as a minibiography emphasizing sex and scandal (when available). For dabblers, this narrative abundance may seem like a treasure trove; for those seeking more substantial insights, it will simply lead to a longer reading list. Stadiem also has trouble winnowing down his facts to the most pertinent and exciting, providing instead excessive detail that invites readers to skim.

A disjointed tale of society and its riches, dull and thrilling in about equal portions.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-345-53695-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


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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