Focusing on ecology and economics, Mann provides a spellbinding account of how an unplanned collision of unfamiliar animals,...

1493

UNCOVERING THE NEW WORLD COLUMBUS CREATED

A fascinating chronicle of the “Columbian Exchange,” which mixed old and new world elements to form today’s integrated global culture, the “homogenocene.”

People of European ancestry poured across the world after 1500, forming the majority in several continents and dominating everywhere. Historians traditionally credit Western superiority in organization and weaponry, but science journalist Mann (1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, 2005) argues convincingly that biology, not technology, gave them the critical advantage. Most readers will be surprised by the author’s discussion of the history of Jamestown, America’s first permanent English colony. Settled largely by incompetent adventurers eager to duplicate the jackpot of gold that Spaniards found in Mexico and Peru, they failed, dithered and starved to death by the thousands until, after 10 years, the jackpot appeared: tobacco, the first global commodity craze. Silk and porcelain crazes quickly followed. Arriving with Columbus, malaria and yellow fever debilitated white settlers throughout America, but Africans had partial resistance, a major factor in encouraging the slave trade. Historians have focused on gold, but an avalanche of South American silver poured into China as well as Europe, facilitating international trade as well as inflation, instability, war and today’s currency system. Potatoes and corn from America probably stabilized Europe by eliminating periodic famines. They did the opposite in China, encouraging a population explosion that cleared forests, leading to floods and vast environmental degradation.

Focusing on ecology and economics, Mann provides a spellbinding account of how an unplanned collision of unfamiliar animals, vegetables, minerals and diseases produced unforeseen wealth, misery, social upheaval and the modern world.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-26572-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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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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