Bracing and provocative, despite the tendentiousness and the uniformity of structure.




A set of scholarly responses to Henry Luce’s 1941 essay in his Life magazine, “The American Century.”

Editor Bacevich (International Relations and History/Boston Univ.; Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War, 2010, etc.) provides the beginning and ending chapters in this collection of historical and analytical pieces that, combined, claim: there really wasn’t much of an American century; it was always an illusion, anyhow; it has been extraordinarily arrogant and purblind to believe that America was unlike other empires and that its way of life is suitable for the rest of the world. The pieces share a conventional academic structure, which eventually becomes tiresome: introduction, body, conclusion—don’t any of these notable contributors know how to frame an essay in a fresher, more engaging way? They also share an anti-imperialist, leftish slant that will allure some readers and alienate others. David M. Kennedy begins with an essay about American military power and our decision to put most of our chips on air power. Several contributors—Emily S. Rosenberg, Jeffrey A. Frieden and Eugene McCarraher—highlight economic aspects of the topic, variously attacking materialism, the arrogance of the business mind and the effects of globalization on the American economy and way of life. Others looks at the effects of immigration and race, historical antecedents (Manifest Destiny, the Truman Doctrine), military misadventures since World War II (Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Iraq) and the influence of some significant players on the stage, among them Walter Lippmann, Reinhold Niebuhr, Randolph Bourne and Charles Beard. Many attack Republican administrations, though McCarraher has some sharp words for President Obama, sharper ones for Thomas J. Friedman.

Bracing and provocative, despite the tendentiousness and the uniformity of structure.

Pub Date: March 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-674-06445-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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