ROBERT KENNEDY AND HIS TIMES

In the elegiac spirit of A Thousand Days—and with access to the family papers—Schlesinger has mounted a massive attack on the Robert Kennedy conundrum (shy/aggressive, compassionate/ruthless) and, no less, on the Kennedy brothers' detractors. The themes, the interpretations, the stories are not new; but never have they been so assidously nailed down. RFK is described as an "overachiever" who tenaciously overcame his childhood handicaps to become a scrappy youth and, as manager of JFK's 1952 senatorial campaign, his father's fighting son. "In part it was an [Irish] imposture," Schlesinger writes. "The gentle self was never extinguished." Later exposure to human suffering strengthened the repressed "instinct of sympathy" and gave it "social direction." But it was not until his father's incapacitation and his brother's death that "the qualities he had so long subordinated in the interest of others. . . could rise freely to the surface. He could be himself at last." A reductive analysis, one may decide, given the complexity of the man who emerges in these 850 crowded pages which—if they accomplished nothing else—would reaffirm RFK's salient role as a doer. And indeed it is when Kennedy failed to act (e.g., to block the Martin Luther King wiretaps) or over-reacted (e.g., in pursuing Jimmy Hoffa, countering the steel price rise, supporting counterinsurgency in South Vietnam) that Schlesinger's defense is least convincing. (That the credo "If there was a problem, there had to be a solution" exacts a cost, he does not recognize.) But there is sufficient here to occupy a battery of historians, some of it openly anti-revisionist (e.g., a broad defense of JFK's handling of the Cuban missile crisis), some of it startling (RFK ostensibly broke with LBJ after the latter' spoke of JFK's death as "divine retribution" for the Trujillo and Diem assassinations), some of it the scouring of old wounds (William Manchester, Gore Vidal), and much of it—especially apropos of RFK's extra-Justice Department activities—a considerable amplification of the record. Sentimental, rhetorical, partisan—and indispensable.

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 1978

ISBN: 0618219285

Page Count: 1092

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1978

NIGHT

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

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS

FROM MEAN STREETS TO WALL STREET

Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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