IN SIBERIA

Thubron (The Lost Heart of Asia, 1994, etc.) proves again why he is considered one of the most affecting travel writers today with this graphic, melancholy portrait of Siberia. Though Thubron has spent years among Russian and Central Asian backwaters, Siberia had eluded him as more a rumor than a place, its beauty stark, its notoriety more fearsome still. But when this vast, forbidden area—fully one-third of the northern hemisphere— suddenly opened to outsiders, he hurried here. Traveling by the seat of his pants, he took in all four corners, from the tundra’s silvery maze of lichen and fungi and relict labor camps to ratty, vicious cities and towns to the cold unscented air of the high Altai: —At sunset, cresting a pass, we looked down on a wilderness of mountains, where only cloud shadows moved and a pale half-moon was stenciled on the sky . . . then the track and the world stopped.— From each locale he pries a nugget—not some reputed essence, but a lasting personal tale or memory he passes to the reader like a gift: a darkly heroic incident at an Arctic coal mine for political prisoners, the last mellow days of September the locals call Lady’s Summer. Thubron’s prose poetry is abrupt, frugal, and glinting——An old man sits in his dacha in the Golden Valley,— begins one episode—and he is a wary reporter: —The only signs of truth would be chance ones: damp wallpaper of indiscreet secretaries or the way the man’s hands wrenched together.— And if Siberia is slippery——I was reduced to knowing it by glancing detail, snatches of talk——what he has caught is treasure enough. As a landscape, Thubron’s Siberia is indifferently magnificent; as a place, it is furtive, luckless, crime-ridden, a world where the past is fast rotting and new foundations have yet to be poured. (Map, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-019543-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1999

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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