LeDuff lets the characters speak for their sad lives as he sets the surrounding atmospheric pressure just right.




Mostly fleet, mostly bitter portraits of working-class men and women in the New York City area, compiled from the author’s reporting for the New York Times metro section.

“The dandies I know say I write about dives and losers, but they are wrong.” Readers may challenge LeDuff on that point. The joints he typically writes about are dives, and the people mostly in gray, rough patches of their lives: employed, unemployed, or in between. That’s where LeDuff wants to be, among the ruck, where the stories have an everyday, mortal bite. Though he can sound like a bad Philip Marlowe imitation (“When the cocktail set tells me they enjoy the cast of losers, I never mind them. I smile and drink their liquor. They don't know what work is”), he usually approaches his subjects from an angle that catches the odd, genuine glint of their lives: the sidewalk Santa who “arrives home to a single room with a sink, well past dusk. He puts on the Drifters and takes off his boots. He empties the ashtray and lights himself a cigarette.” LeDuff is very much the reader’s eyes, and the images he presents, for all their brevity, have depth and heft, a strong, voyeuristic, out-of-body impact. His protagonists include shysters and gamblers, an arm wrestling impresario, a professional punching bag, men with soft hands, an upended cardboard box, and a deck of cards. There are also a few longer profiles—one was part of the Pulitzer-winning “How Race Is Lived in America” series—that allow LeDuff to sit awhile and wait for most all defenses to be dropped so he can show us the dark sides of work in a slaughterhouse, or as a day laborer, or as a harbor man.

LeDuff lets the characters speak for their sad lives as he sets the surrounding atmospheric pressure just right.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2004

ISBN: 1-59420-002-5

Page Count: 366

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2003

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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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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