A well-researched and spirited cultural history.



A history of the hot music and provocative dancing that lit up the Gilded Age.

Cockrell (Emeritus, Musicology/Vanderbilt Univ.; Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface Minstrels and Their World, 1997) offers a colorful panorama of New York City nightlife from 1840 until the start of World War I. In the mid-19th century, music became wild: “exhilarating rhythms, a brassy sound, the thumping bass, and sinuous melodies” responded to—and incited—new dance crazes that swept the nation. Young people, and especially lower-class patrons, flocked to dance halls, a cheap and alluring form of entertainment, where they “tough danced,” a term applied to energetic dances such as “the walk back, the hug-me-tight, the lovers’ two-step” and sexy animal dances, such as the bunny hug, kangaroo squeeze, jackass step, and the grizzly bear. All of them gave men and women a chance to embrace, gyrate their bodies, and twirl madly. In 1909, Cockrell discovered, 95 percent of young working-class women in New York went to dance halls, some every night, most at least once a week. “Shaking of hips, shimmying, twisting, and thrusting of the lower body were all parts of the accepted repertoire of moves,” writes the author. Sex was in the air: in music, dancing, and prostitution, which flourished in dance halls and saloons, inspiring determined private and public reform efforts. Drawing on newspaper reports, court records, song lyrics, reform tracts, and travel guides, among many other sources, Cockrell fashions an abundantly populated narrative featuring musical performers and composers (Irving Berlin, for one, whose hit song gives the book its title), dancers, club owners, madams, prostitutes, gangsters, reformers, preachers, policemen, politicians, and exuberant patrons of dance halls, bars, and saloons—some of which served special clienteles. “Dive,” for example, was a term for a saloon frequented by blacks and whites, located in “below-sidewalk cellars”; when “dive” became applied more broadly to disreputable venues, Black-and-Tan came to refer to racially integrated establishments; and the Slide catered to gay men and women.

A well-researched and spirited cultural history.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-60894-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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