An evenhanded biography of an unlovable figure of Civil War history.

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GENERAL JO SHELBY’S MARCH

A proficient study of a diehard Confederate cavalry general.

Historian Arthur (Radical Innocent: Upton Sinclair, 2006) doesn’t disguise his ambivalence toward this hotheaded opportunist who threw his lot into the losing side and gained little, save a reputation as a ferocious fighting man, “the embodiment of certain enduring American characteristics and values.” Raised in Kentucky and “groomed as a merchant prince,” Joseph Orville Shelby (1830–1897) was offered the chance to serve for the Union after hostilities broke out in 1861. His good friend and fellow Missourian Frank Blair, a Republican congressman, offered him a commission, but Shelby fervently supported states’ rights in the bloody aftermath of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, and had been involved in nasty cross-border raids. Indeed, he was already funneling munitions to the Confederates and was soon put in charge of defending the Trans-Mississippi Department, the 400,000 square miles that lay west of the Mississippi. While the federal forces recognized the significance of controlling the river, the Confederacy used the area as a “salvage yard” for dumping “malcontents and incompetents.” Shelby’s Iron Brigade was effective at the quick attack-and-retreat style in the face of the Union’s superior numbers, establishing Shelby’s reputation as fierce and reckless. Refusing to acknowledge Southern surrender, he forayed into Mexico in June 1865 with a band of about 300 “hard cases on the prowl and bristling with weapons,” looking to incite the Mexicans under Benito Juárez against the Union, then switched sides and offered their services to Maximilian and the French invaders, who rejected them. Arthur fashions a dignified portrait of this troublesome character and knowledgeably delves into a little-studied period of post–Civil War machinations with Mexico.

An evenhanded biography of an unlovable figure of Civil War history.

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6830-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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