Vollmann promises a second volume to come—and perhaps more beyond that. Only the irradiated future will tell.

NO IMMEDIATE DANGER

VOLUME ONE OF CARBON IDEOLOGIES

Vollmann (The Dying Grass, 2015, etc.) apologizes to the future that we’ve ruined, charting how our choices of energy sources made the planet scarcely inhabitable.

“Back when I lived,” writes the author early on, “some of us believed that heavily polluting coal could somehow lift people out of poverty without impoverishing us in any more fundamental way. We believed that because it was convenient to believe it. So we kept the lights on.” The italics are his, but in any event, it’s a feint: we won’t get deeply into coal until the second volume of this Carbon Ideologies series. The first is heavy going enough. Famously loquacious, Vollmann writes, without apparent irony, that his “little book” is full of questions and not solutions, true enough save that the little book stretches out over more than 600 pages and embraces a couple of dissertations’ worth of data and research notes. In the main, the author’s focus is on nuclear power, for, as he also notes early on, “the future for which I write will most likely also be a more radioactive time,” not just because nuclear power may be the only way out of fossil fuel dependency—renewables make more sense, but they apparently don’t offer enough bang for the buck for the corporate mindset—but also because, given the likelihood of accidents, the world is likely to have plenty of loose isotopes rolling around. Vollmann chronicles his travels to the site of the Fukushima reactor disaster, asking questions that journalists have not: “What color was the tsunami?” “Is it safe here?” It will come as no comfort to know that Fukushima won’t, in fact, be safe for another 500 years—though, counsels one decontamination specialist, it may take only 300 years. That there are two or more answers to the question is emblematic, for every matter that the author raises leads onto many others, yielding a dense but—as always, with Vollmann—rewarding, impeccably researched narrative.

Vollmann promises a second volume to come—and perhaps more beyond that. Only the irradiated future will tell.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-56349-2

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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