FROM PLATO TO NATO

THE IDEA OF THE WEST AND ITS OPPONENTS

An erudite examination of the history of the West and what this history has meant to both its proponents and opponents. “The West” is not, for Gress, a fellow at the Danish Institute of International Affairs, simply an idea. Presented as an unblemished history of progress from ancient Greece to the present, this idealized “Grand Narrative” in its perfection was easy prey for those who would oppose the West; it couldn—t possibly live up to its billing. This “Grand Narrative” was bad history, and Gress attempts to present a better history. He finds that the modern West evolved not as an idea but as a series of practices and institutions, some quite accidental and fortuitous, some tragic. Specifically, he finds the West to be an amalgam of ancient Roman, Christian, and Germanic cultures (the “Old West”) mixed with the Enlightenment creations of liberty, reason, and economic freedom (the “New West”). The scholarly detail with which the author presents this history is truly impressive. In the end, he concludes that the West of today, while not universal, not a destination at which all nations will or must arrive, is beyond question worth preserving and defending. He has, however, no patience whatsoever for those who would disparage the West. While his history is an intellectual marvel, his depiction of critics of the West consists of caricature and intellectual chicanery. Any criticism of the West is, for Gress, an attack on the whole tradition, so that the anti-Americanism of the Vietnam era simply became reformulated as anti-Westernism, so that “environmentalism” is nothing more than something invented by people to serve an authoritarian agenda. Thus does scholarship become reduced to polemic. Still, despite its flaws, this is a thought-provoking work, whether one is “for—— or “against—— the West.

Pub Date: July 13, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-82789-1

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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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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ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN

Bernstein and Woodward, the two Washington Post journalists who broke the Big Story, tell how they did it by old fashioned seat-of-the-pants reporting — in other words, lots of intuition and a thick stack of phone numbers. They've saved a few scoops for the occasion, the biggest being the name of their early inside source, the "sacrificial lamb" H**h Sl**n. But Washingtonians who talked will be most surprised by the admission that their rumored contacts in the FBI and elsewhere never existed; many who were telephoned for "confirmation" were revealing more than they realized. The real drama, and there's plenty of it, lies in the private-eye tactics employed by Bernstein and Woodward (they refer to themselves in the third person, strictly on a last name basis). The centerpiece of their own covert operation was an unnamed high government source they call Deep Throat, with whom Woodward arranged secret meetings by positioning the potted palm on his balcony and through codes scribbled in his morning newspaper. Woodward's wee hours meetings with Deep Throat in an underground parking garage are sheer cinema: we can just see Robert Redford (it has to be Robert Redford) watching warily for muggers and stubbing out endless cigarettes while Deep Throat spills the inside dope about the plumbers. Then too, they amass enough seamy detail to fascinate even the most avid Watergate wallower — what a drunken and abusive Mitchell threatened to do to Post publisher Katherine Graham's tit, and more on the Segretti connection — including the activities of a USC campus political group known as the Ratfuckers whose former members served as a recruiting pool for the Nixon White House. As the scandal goes public and out of their hands Bernstein and Woodward seem as stunned as the rest of us at where their search for the "head ratfucker" has led. You have to agree with what their City Editor Barry Sussman realized way back in the beginning — "We've never had a story like this. Just never."

Pub Date: June 18, 1974

ISBN: 0671894412

Page Count: 372

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1974

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