From the Pulitzer-winning former Librarian of Congress—a readable but often pallid counterpart to The Discoverers (1983), examining ``how creators in all the arts have enlarged, embellished, fantasized, and filigreed our experience.'' Here, as in The Discoverers, Boorstin (Hidden History, 1987, etc.) paints a triumphal history that celebrates the march of human progress—from the Judeo-Christian tradition of a creator-God to the modernist exploration of the self in Proust, Kafka, and Virginia Woolf. Although he makes an admirable attempt to discuss Oriental and Muslim artists, most of the author's heroes are the usual stars of Western civilization: Thucydides, Dante, Shakespeare, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Bach, Dickens, Wordsworth, Eliot, and Picasso. Like Francis Parkman, Boorstin is a narrative historian who never lets ``his story become the victim of demography, sociology, or professional jargon.'' Unfortunately, despite all his empathy for these often turbulently brilliant heroes, his ``stories'' reveal little more than familiar anecdotes. Moreover, in a dismaying change from The Discoverers, Boorstin rarely explains the synergy between his subjects and their society- -for example, skipping the development of the novel between Cervantes and Balzac and thus providing little understanding of how this originally urban genre evolved. Worse still, this stepping- stone effect sometimes leaves him with only the most banal definition of an individual's landmark importance (``Beethoven was the first of the great musicians to be a public man, an advocate through his music on the issues of his time''). Boorstin's ability to connect his creators and the world that inspired and received their creations seems to have vanished. As always, Boorstin organizes his material lucidly and never loses sight of the human dimension. But, unaccountably, he has little to say here that's provocative, unorthodox, witty, epigrammatic, or illuminating—in short, there's little of the creative touch he aims to honor. (Book-of-the-Month Dual Selection for November)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-394-54395-5

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1992

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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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