An essay in the Walter Karp-Lewis Lapham mode that’s sure to irk the neocons.

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ARE WE ROME?

THE FALL OF AN EMPIRE AND THE FATE OF AMERICA

Imperial Rome and imperial America have many points in common, writes former Atlantic Monthly editor Murphy (Just Curious, 1995, etc.), not least that both “have considered their way to be the world’s way.”

Murphy ventures nothing new with the mere observation that Rome and America have similarities; even the Founding Fathers thought as much. But, writing with fluency and grace and possessing a solid grounding in the classics, he actually serves up specifics: a telling comparison of the Roman road system, for instance, with our interstates, and of our president’s mode of international travel with that of the emperors and their flying squadrons. Murphy draws six major parallels that, he reckons, ought to serve as warnings and guidelines for better behavior. One concerns military power, with considerable points against the use of mercenaries and auxiliaries, for instance, whether Ostrogoths or the “Halliburtoni and the Wackenhuti.” Murphy does acknowledge, however, that “the most capable, well-rounded, and experienced public executives in America today are its senior military officers, not its Washington politicians.” Another parallel is what Murphy loosely terms privatization, “which can often also mean ‘corruption,’” which is to say, the trouble certain Romans had and certain Washingtonians have in drawing the line between their things and those in the public domain. A further point of resemblance is the executive’s arrogating power unto itself without due concern for senatorial counsel, a habit that yields Caesars now as then. And so forth, all adding up to decline and fall, which, Murphy gently observes, doesn’t have to happen so long as we Americans take a broader view of the world and a narrower view of the Constitution and, even if we “don’t live in Mr. Jefferson’s republic anymore,” start comporting ourselves not as Romans but as Americans.

An essay in the Walter Karp-Lewis Lapham mode that’s sure to irk the neocons.

Pub Date: May 10, 2007

ISBN: 0-618-74222-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2007

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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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