Anyone who wishes to learn more of Lincoln, the nation he helped govern, and the way memory serves social and cultural...



An engaging scholarly study of the dynamic links between Lincoln’s image and the rapidly changing American culture during the six decades after his assassination.

Sociologist Schwartz (George Washington, not reviewed) wants to test sociological theories with historical evidence and bring history back into his own discipline. Fortunately, he also knows how to tell a good story. One needn’t like sociology (which appears here only at the start and finish and is spread on lightly anyway) to learn much from his engrossing account of the sources of Lincoln’s changing reputation between 1865 and the 1920s. (A forthcoming second volume will bring the story up to date.) Schwartz’s approach differs from Merrill Peterson’s Lincoln in American Memory (1994), which focused on the contents of Lincoln’s image: Schwartz explores instead how public perception of Lincoln waxed and waned as it did (the 16th President was by no means universally admired during his lifetime). Drawing on a wide variety of sources (art and statuary, schoolbooks and speeches, and the efforts of “reputational entrepreneurs”), Schwartz shows that Lincoln came to be revered as he was as much on account of the needs of particular historical moments and groups in the population as because of his own deeds and words. In other words, Americans constructed Lincoln’s image in their own. Such an argument will not surprise historians engaged in the scholarly industry of “memory studies.” But it reminds us of the complex interdependence of fact, memory, and culture. It also fills out our understanding of such specific phenomena as North-South reconciliation, military preparation, and race relations through the Progressive Era. And true to its sociological foundations, it reveals how images grow more from need than reality, and how reputations are as likely to be imposed as achieved.

Anyone who wishes to learn more of Lincoln, the nation he helped govern, and the way memory serves social and cultural functions will gain from this highly illuminating work. (b&w illustrations not seen)

Pub Date: July 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-226-74197-4

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet