For those seeking a window onto the Islamic world, though of tertiary importance at best.


“If fanaticism was the sickness in Catholicism, if Nazism was the sickness in Germany, then surely fundamentalism is the sickness in Islam.”

So writes homme de lettres Meddeb (Comparative Literature/Univ. of Paris X—Nanterre) by way of an opening salvo in a polemic sure to irk the ayatollahs. Fundamentalism, he argues, has taken hold of the Islamic world since 1979—the year of Khomeini’s triumphant revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, events more than coincidentally linked—for any number of reasons, not least of them the decline of secular education and the proliferation of “semi-literate” followers of “candidates who claim the authority to touch the letter.” Other factors, by Meddeb’s account, are the general withering away of the Islamic world as an important place vis-à-vis the rest of the globe, a marginalization that began at least as far back as the 15th century and the transference of what he calls the “world-capital” “ever further away from the Islamic space”; the repudiation of Enlightenment-influenced attitudes on such matters as the liberation of women and universal suffrage; the failure of the Islamic world to develop any kind of meaningful, modern democratic tradition, and the failure of revolutionary leaders such as Atatürk of Turkey and Bourguiba of Tunisia “to rid themselves of the despotic tradition they had inherited”; and the rise of a strange kind of American imperialism that has done too little to remove the conditions conducive to creating “the man eaten away by resentment, a candidate for terrorist and insurrectional fundamentalism.” Meddeb’s analysis is provocative if touched by flights of rhetorical confoundedness of the sort beloved only by French philosophers. The payoff: Meddeb’s crystal-clear assurance that “al Qa’ida is destined to fail just as the Assassins failed . . . just as every similar movement throughout history has failed.”

For those seeking a window onto the Islamic world, though of tertiary importance at best.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2003

ISBN: 0-465-04435-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2003

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



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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