A historical tour de force.




No less than Paris in the 1920s, New York City in the 1940s was the center of the world, according to this exhilarating account of the city during that decade.

Journalist and editor Reid (Sex, Death and God in L.A., 1992, etc.) begins his rich history with a bang, describing the city’s boroughs through the eyes of a gaunt, ailing Franklin Roosevelt during a daylong, 50-mile 1944 electioneering tour in an open car in a cold rain to refute Republican claims that he was ailing. The purpose of the tour, writes the author, was “to demonstrate in the most vivid possible way that…he was alive and laughing.” At his death six months later, great world cities not in ruins after World War II were exhausted, but New York flourished. At the time, journalist John Gunther praised NYC as “the incomparable, the brilliant star city of cities, the forty-ninth state, a law unto itself, the Cyclopean paradox, the inferno with no out-of-bounds, the supreme expression of both the miseries and splendors of contemporary civilization, the Macedonia of the United States.” This efflorescence benefitted from a flood of European exiles fleeing fascism. Superstars (Einstein, Toscanini, Brecht, Stravinsky) aside, the average American and America’s government felt little sympathy, but this represented the greatest transplant of talent since Greek scholars fled to Italy after the 1453 fall of Constantinople. Movie and theater attendance began declining after 1945, but it remained the golden age of print. New York had more than 15 daily newspapers and dozens of smaller ones, and the nation’s largest department store, Macy’s, contained the nation’s largest bookstore. Having read or seen nearly every artifact of this period, Reid delivers his opinion in a score of unrelated but brilliant chapters on iconic New York individuals (Berenice Abbott, Weegee), groups (returning soldiers, homosexuals), politics (the 1948 elections, leftist magazines), and bohemia (Greenwich village again and again).

A historical tour de force.

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-394-57237-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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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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