Mayer claims to “brush history against the grain”—in fact, he succeeds mostly in brushing against the facts.

THE FURIES

VIOLENCE AND TERROR IN THE FRENCH AND RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONS

An analysis of the “furies” (both left and right) of the French and Russian Revolutions that gets lost in a time warp.

Princeton historian Mayer (The Persistence of the Old Regime, 1981) sets out to show that there is no revolution without violence, terror, and war; that there can be no revolution without counterrevolution; and that revolutions, bad as they may be, are no worse than the unjust social orders that invariably precede them. The last point is Mayer’s most novel idea, but he never really proves it (and to the extent that he tries, he gets himself into hot water—arguing, for example, that the concentration camps of the Soviet Union were a reflection of “the dead hand of Russia's past”). He also develops another interesting idea, claiming that religious conflict was an important revolutionary force in both events; the Protestants were ranged against the Catholics in France, while the Jews in Russia were opposed by the White forces (who made good use of anti-Semitism in compensating for an unappealing political ideology). But when Mayer argues that “in the long run revolutionary situations benefit oppressed . . . religious minorities,” one wonders how he differentiates the subsequent travails of Jews in the Soviet Union. Similarly, his argument that Lenin did not encourage excesses and did not “instrumentalize” anticlericalism until 1918 runs up against the evidence of recently disclosed documents in which Lenin orders subordinates to shoot priests publicly. Mayer then argues that, in the short run, collectivization failed to remedy the chronic ills of agricultural production—which implies the truly novel conclusion that it did so in the long run. Finally, Mayer gives a reprise of the notion that Stalin might have permitted democracy in Eastern Europe if it hadn't been for the “perception” that somehow “took hold” that he intended to treat them like vassal states.

Mayer claims to “brush history against the grain”—in fact, he succeeds mostly in brushing against the facts.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-691-04897-5

Page Count: 700

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

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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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