MY LIFE WITH PRESIDENT KENNEDY

An intelligent and often witty collection of essays for pre-Baby Boomers and Boomers alike. Clausen (English/Penn State; The Moral Imagination, not reviewed) offers nine essays reflecting on the experiences of the '60s generation. In so doing, he attempts to explode some of the most cherished myths about that turbulent decade and the people it spawned. While members of his generation may have nothing more in common than do those of any other age cluster, Clausen notes that it was nevertheless shaped by political, economic, and historical forces very different from those at work when his father came of age. The title piece is a reflection on what President Kennedy meant to him and his peers. Clausen accurately depicts the ambiguity of JFK's record on issues such as Vietnam, Berlin, and civil rights, but he points out that for those who grew up in the early '60s, the idealistic promises of Camelot still grip the imagination. In ``A Decent Impersonality,'' he ruminates on the increase of informality and the use of first names for even casual acquaintances, arguing that it breeds disrespect for the person and the law. ``Reading the Supermarket Tabloids'' is a dead-on account of this growing phenomenon. In ``Dr. Smiles and Mrs. Beeton,'' Clausen reflects on manners, Victorian England, and the rise of the middle class. ``Jack-in-the-Pulpit'' considers changing tastes in vacation spots and activities. All the pieces are broadly autobiographical—some, such as ``Survivors,'' directly, and others only allusively. ``Grandfathers'' and ``Dialogues with the Dead'' are among the many dealing with changing, but still important, notions of family. Clausen's glib style may not be for everyone, and he often comes off, probably unintentionally, as a tad reactionary. But there's enough here to appeal to readers from a broad spectrum.

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 1994

ISBN: 0-87745-472-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Univ. of Iowa

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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