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HOUSEBOAT ON THE SEINE

A MEMOIR

Novelist/painter Wharton, whose last book was the nonfiction account of his daughter's tragic death in a car accident (Ever After, 1995), here tackles the more pleasant topic of houseboating on the Seine, with unexpected results. A longtime resident of France, Wharton bought a houseboat ten miles west of Paris with the intention of living there with his schoolteacher wife and children. He fixed it up; it promptly sank. Thus follows a long struggle with this determinedly unfloatable vessel. First, Wharton is nearly skinned alive while attempting to clear the debris out of the sunken boat. (He neglected to wear a wetsuit while performing his rescue mission, unaware that the Renault auto plant upriver had been dumping sulfuric acid into the water.) Next, the vessel is resurrected by the colorful Teurnier brothers, second-generation experts in the field of raising sunken boats. Finally, the author attempts to make the listing wreck watertight—in vain. Teurniers to the rescue! Their ingenious solution: to take a filthy old oil barge—which Wharton and his game family spend three full weekends emptying of oil—and put the houseboat on top of it. The resulting monstrosity is made not merely livable but lovely after much time and hard work by the author, his crew, and the occasional Teurnier brother. Wharton expounds upon the details of these labors—measurements, techniques, and more—in great detail. Now, Wharton and his retired wife live on the boat full-time. It isn't maintenance-free, but it is, finally, charming. Readers expecting charm in this slim volume, however, should beware: Wharton's gritty and unembellished story—an amalgam of boatbuilding manual and memoir of expatriate life—is fascinating but not for the squeamish.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-55704-272-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Newmarket Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1996

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NIGHT

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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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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