While mainly for specialists, this provocative and obviously timely analysis is an important reminder of the role that...




The moderate tradition in American politics.

“Ideologues may come and go, but as long as the republic persists, the prevailing tradition trends moderate,” writes Brown (History/Elizabethtown Coll.; Beyond the Frontier: The Midwestern Voice in American Historical Writing, 2009, etc.). In this welcome academic study, Brown—who wrote a biography of Richard Hofstadter, the noted historian who famously traced the paranoid strain in U.S. politics—considers the pragmatic, centrist leaders who have shaped America. From the skeptical New Englander John Adams, who avoided the partisanship of post-Revolution politics, to “consensus-driven realist” Barack Obama, there has always been a moderate style of leadership that “has on occasion proven to be a saving grace of sorts in American politics.” In densely detailed prose, Brown traces the centrist coalitions of various periods, from anti-slavery advocates to patrician-led opponents of political corruption, and examines the actions of their leaders, including Teddy Roosevelt, an honest broker between capital and labor, and Bill Clinton, who claimed “the prevailing middle ground in a post–New Deal, post-Reagan political culture.” The author’s other noted centrists include Abraham Lincoln and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Brown notes that before the Civil War, people expected to compromise on issues. Centrism reached a significant low point with the 1964 presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater, who deemed moderates timid and indecisive. From our present politically divisive perspective, many of the author’s observations are jolting—e.g., moderate Republicans controlled the GOP from 1936 to 1976, and three generations of the primarily centrist Bush family influenced U.S. politics from 1952 to 2009. Brown quotes former Secretary of State Colin Powell approvingly when he urged his party to “drift a little bit back [to the center]…because that’s where the American people are.”

While mainly for specialists, this provocative and obviously timely analysis is an important reminder of the role that reason and compromise have played in bridging the gap between political extremes.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4696-2923-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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