Belly up to a scholarly treatise on the evolution of the barroom.

Sismondo’s sophisticated narrative on the cocktail (Mondo Cocktail, 2005) could be considered a primer course for this companion volume, her “pub crawl through American history.” This three-part exploration of the bar—an institution where culture, politics, law enforcement, prejudice and gender bias all had a hand in its genesis—begins with the traditional taverns of the early colonial era. These establishments assisted travelers as a Puritanical way-station and concurrently formed vital social and political networks, yet were plagued by rampant drunkenness. Sismondo also plumbs George Washington’s Whiskey Rebellion resistance movement as it paved the way for the president’s political popularity. The author includes whimsical doggerel, diary entries and a wealth of significant historical milestones like Prohibition, the controversial presence of women in pubs and a particularly illuminating chapter devoted to bars like San Francisco’s Black Cat and the Stonewall Inn, where the gay community fought for, and eventually won, the freedom to associate. The author lucidly discusses more recent changes in bar culture as well. Cigarette legislation, for instance, caused a whole new set of complications by forcing smokers outside, often causing restaurant and bar patios and sidewalks to become noisy neighborhood nuisances, while the newly smoke-free air inside made it safe for children to accompany their parents. Sismondo’s passion for her subject matter is evident in both her comprehensive research and in short anecdotes on her own initiation to the bar culture as a child accompanying her parents to lounge-friendly client meetings on business trips and, later, working in the local Toronto pub community. These personal sections and the author’s spirited prose add personality to text that, to casual readers, could seem dry. A robust homage to the history and proliferation of bars and their vast and often overlooked cultural significance.        


Pub Date: July 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-19-973495-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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...


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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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